Measles in Review: USA, New Zealand, Angola, DR Congo

Measles is one of the leading causes of death in children and one of the most contagious diseases known.  Among susceptible people (those who are unvaccinated and never had it before), 90% who come into contact with a case will become infected.  Measles kills about 450 people (mostly children) on average every day.  It is preventable through vaccination.  In some part of the world, vaccination has never been widespread enough to prevent outbreaks.  Due to decreased levels of vaccination in places with formerly excellent coverage, measles is a re-emerging threat that has been in the news a great deal recently.   On February 20th, a woman with measles traveled from London to Washington, DC’s Dulles International Airport (IAD).  She traveled around the city and two days later flew from Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI)  to Albuquerque (ABQ), with a three hour layover at Denver International Airport (DIA).  Thousands of travelers may have been exposed.  Although Public Health officials are contacting individuals on the flights, susceptible people in those airport terminals could also have been infected.  The classic measles rash typically takes two weeks to develop, so the number of related cases is still unknown. In a separate incident, a worker at the French Consulate in Boston was diagnosed with measles, triggering extensive vaccination efforts.  A second case has been confirmed and three more are suspected, including a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Earlier this year, a traveler with measles flew from Dubai to Auckland, New Zealand.  Unfortunately, New Zealand has seen numerous cases subsequent to the flight.  Last week, an earthquake evacuation center in Christchurch had to be closed due to concerns about a measles at the shelter. In areas of the world with greater malnutrition and additional diseases, measles remains deadly to children.  An ongoing outbreak in Angola has led 320 cases.  Nine have died and 170 are severely ill.  DR Congo has seen almost 4,000 cases since January.  Thirty one children are known to have died.

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