It's not even halfway through 2019 and the number of measles cases in the United States has already risen to the highest in 25 years.
The highly contagious disease was eliminated in the country in 2000, but it's making a comeback, hitting close-knit communities with low vaccination rates particularly hard.
CDC said that as of Friday, April 26, 2019, a total of 704 cases of measles have been reported in the United States. This is the highest number of cases in the country in a single year since 1994 when 963 cases of measles occurred.
The solution, officials say, is the same as it has ever been: the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.
Early Measles Vaccination
Normally, the MMR vaccine is given in two doses with the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age.
Now, with the measles outbreak sweeping globally, the CDC is suggesting that parents vaccinate their infants at age 6 to 11 months with one dose of the MMR vaccine. For these infants who received an MMR vaccine before their first birthday, CDC recommends two additional doses: one at age 12 to 15 months and another at least 28 days later.
In places such as New York or countries hit by the outbreak, where infants are exposed to the virus, early vaccination is a precaution that may be worth taking.
Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told The Verge that giving babies the MMR vaccine is perfectly safe. He added that it's not the norm because the vaccine may not be as effective on babies younger than a year old than it is on everyone else.
"However, some babies could still benefit from early immunization during a true measles outbreak," he explained in an email to The Verge.
Measles Is A Global Problem
According to World Health Organization, reported cases of measles in the first three months of 2019 is 300 percent higher compared to the same period in 2018.
Countries with ongoing outbreaks are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand, and Ukraine. Even countries with overall high vaccination coverage, the numbers are rising. Aside from the United States, measles is taking Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia by storm.
With the disease on the rise worldwide, even adults who have received a dose of the MMR vaccine are at risk, especially if they regularly travel or are planning to travel abroad. Experts say adults who only received a single dose of the vaccine may need to get the second one to ensure they are adequately immune.