US measles cases surpass 2018 totals as outbreaks spread

Measles continues to spread across the U.S., with outbreaks in four states infecting more people in the first three months of 2019 than in all of last year, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles is highly contagious, infecting up to 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus can live in the air for up to two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC, meaning people can be exposed to it without ever knowing. People can be infected for days before showing signs of the virus, such as a fever, runny nose or a rash.

Measles can be especially dangerous for young children, the CDC says. It can lead to pneumonia, brain swelling and even death. The CDC recommends children get their first dose of MMR vaccine at between 12 and 15 months old and a second dose when they’re between 4 and 6 years old.

The CDC says the current measles outbreaks in the U.S. are mostly linked to people traveling internationally to countries such as Israel and Ukraine that are experiencing large outbreaks. It’s spreading quickly in close-knit religious communities, such as New York’s Orthodox Jewish community, where many people choose not to get vaccinated.

Public health officials are desperately trying to assure parents that vaccines are safe and are the best way to protect their children from dangerous and potentially deadly diseases such as measles. The anti-vaxxing movement, which advocates against vaccination, has been pushing now-debunked studies that falsely suggested there was a link between vaccines and autism.

Most recently, a study of more than 650,000 children from 1999 to 2010 found no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

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