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Medical News & Perspectives |

Public Health Officials Mark 50th Year of Measles Vaccine:  Concern Remains About Outbreaks in Pockets of Unvaccinated

Bridget M. Kuehn, MSJ
JAMA. 2014;311(4):345-346. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285502.
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Until the 1960s, measles was a rite of passage for US children; nearly all had the disease before they reached adolescence. But each year, 400 to 500 died from rare complications of the illness, 48 000 were hospitalized, 7000 had seizures, and about 1000 developed brain damage or lost their hearing, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Within 4 years of the vaccine’s licensure in 1963, the number of annual US measles cases dropped from 4 million to 2000, according to Alan Hinman, MD, MPH, director for programs at the Task Force for Global Health’s Center for Vaccine Equity.

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In 2013, there were 159 measles cases in the United States, an increase from the earlier average of 60 cases a year. Only 2% of those cases involved people who were fully vaccinated.

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Measles causes a characteristic rash, but many physicians who were trained after vaccination became widespread may have little experience diagnosing it.

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