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There were more measles cases in 2014 than any year during the last two decades

measles New England Journal of Medicine

(Chart courtesy of the New England Journal of Medicine)

Measles is an insidious infectious disease that typically strikes children. It can be deadly. The disease comes on as a fever and runny nose, and causes an uncomfortable blotchy, rash all over the body. It's airborne, so it spreads quite easily, too: it just takes an infected person breathing or coughing near someone who is unvaccinated.

And according to a new New England Journal of Medicine article, measles is making a comeback here: more measles cases have been reported in the US this year than during any year in the past two decades. The author writes that there are two key reasons for this resurgence:

First, though significant progress has been made in reducing global measles incidence, there is still substantial circulation of the virus in other countries. Susceptible U.S. residents who travel to countries where measles is endemic or epidemic and susceptible residents of those countries who travel to the United States are bringing the virus here.

Second, an increasing number of parents in this country are hesitant to have their children vaccinated, and such hesitancy has resulted in an accumulation of unvaccinated populations who can become infected and maintain transmission.

This is especially worrisome, considering how easily measles spreads. In a recent article in The Week, the author points out that readers should be more worried about measles than Ebola. One case of Ebola, on average, leads to the infection of 1.5 to 2.2 other people. "By contrast, a person with measles is infectious for several days before they become sick. And a person with measles will on average infect 12 to 18 additional people."

Worldwide, 330 people die of measles every day. This resurgence in America is a concern.

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