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Measles Declining Again After Three-Year Increase

February 5, 1988

ATLANTA (AP) _ After four years, the news about measles is again encouraging, say U.S. health researchers, but eradication, once believed at hand, may not come soon.

The national Centers for Disease Control said Thursday that 2,637 measles cases were reported in the United States in the first half of 1987, 33 percent less than the 3,921 cases reported in the same period a year earlier.

″We’re obviously encouraged,″ said Dr. Laurie Markowitz, a CDC measles specialist. ″But it may be premature to say anything; the number of measles cases does fluctuate.″

Measles routinely occurred 500,000 times a year in the United States prior to the 1967 licensure of measles vaccine.

The childhood disease was believed headed for eradication in 1983, when a record-low 1,497 cases were reported, but the case count surprised researchers by going back up in 1984, ’85 and ’86.

The CDC’s early year-end reports indicate 3,588 measles cases for all of 1987, a drop of 43 percent from the 6,255 reported in 1986. Data for the entire year, however, are not yet final.

Nearly half the cases reported in the first six months of 1987 - 1,274, or 49 percent - occurred in patients who had been vaccinated against measles, but got the disease anyway.

One-third of that group had been vaccinated at 12-to-14 months, an age when researchers now believe the vaccine may be less effective.

In its weekly report, the Atlanta-based CDC indicated that a change in vaccination strategies may be needed to bring about the elimination of the disease.

More than 80 percent of the cases in the first half of 1987 occurred in New York City and in seven states: California, New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Illinois.

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