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Health CDC says no measles ‘outbreak’

August 22, 2018

Federal health officials said there is not a measles outbreak sweeping the nation, despite what was reported in some news outlets.

But one local health expert said there are still more cases of the vaccine-preventable disease than there should be.

On Aug. 14, media reports began circulating of an “outbreak” that involved 107 measles cases and included 21 states, Connecticut among them. But the story was inaccurate, claimed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a letter sent to state health departments last week.

The CDC said some news organizations had misinterpreted data on its website stating that there had been 107 individual measles cases between Jan. 1 and July 14 of this year.

“There is not one unified measles outbreak occurring in the United States,” the CDC reported in its letter.

Though some media organizations reporting the story did specify that the 100-plus cases was a seven-month total, they still referred to it as an “outbreak,” which it isn’t — at least not according to the CDC, which classifies a measles outbreak as three or more cases in the same region in a month.

The agency states that there have been eight such outbreaks this year.

Semantics aside, this does still seem likely to be a robust year for the illness, although not alarmingly so, said Dr. Goran Miljkovic, infectious disease physician at Bridgeport Hospital. In 2017, there was a total of 118 measles cases for the whole year and, in 2016, there were 86.

“There are still (several) months left in the year,” Miljkovic said. “It does seem like we’ll have more cases than last year. But I don’t think it’s necessarily outside of the pattern that we’ve seen over the past few years. I don’t see any particular issue” that would make this a worse season than normal.

In Connecticut, there have been three measles cases so far this year, although, “there are no active measles cases in Connecticut right now,” said state Department of Public Health spokesperson Maura Downes, in an email.

The last measles case in the state was reported in early May, in an adult in Hartford County. Though the state’s cases were reported within a couple of weeks of each other, Downes said they didn’t constitute an outbreak, either.

“They were completely separate cases,” she said in an email. “Two were children in the same household and the other was completely unrelated.”

State records show that there were no reported measles cases in 2017, only one in 2016 and zero in 2015. There were, however, five measles cases in 2015.

Miljkovic said that technically, any case number of measles is too high, given that there is a vaccine available for the illness.

“The idea would be to totally eradicate it,” he said.

There has been controversy about the measles vaccine, with some parents concerned that it could be linked to autism. However, the 1998 study showing that link has long since been discredited, as the author, Andrew Wakefield, was found to have accepted money from a lawyer looking to sue vaccine manufacturers.

Subsequent research hasn’t shown a link between the vaccine and autism.

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