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CDC Sees Bump in Measles Cases

There has been an abnormally high number of measles cases reported in the U.S. this year, mostly related to outbreaks in countries visited by American travelers, according to the CDC.

The vast majority of the 118 cases reported through May 20 (89%) are either directly or indirectly tied to foreign travel, researchers from the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases reported online in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

And most of those cases stemmed from outbreaks in Europe and Southeast Asia.

The researchers noted that 33 countries in the World Health Organization European Region have reported increased measles activity this year, with France leading the way. Authorities in that country are currently dealing with a large outbreak that has resulted in 10,000 cases in the first four months of the year.

"The increased number of measles importations into the United States this year underscores the importance of vaccination to prevent measles and its complications," the researchers wrote, adding that children and adults who remain unvaccinated not only place themselves at risk but increase the risk of spread to vulnerable community members. That includes infants who are too young to be immunized and individuals with medical contraindications to vaccination.

As a result of high vaccine coverage, endemic or sustained transmission has not been seen in the U.S. since the late 1990s. Cases continue to pop up, however, largely because of importations from other countries.

From 2001 to 2008, there were a median of 56 cases annually reported to the CDC.

Through just 19 weeks of 2011, however, there have already been 118 cases in 23 states and New York City, the highest number reported for this time period since 1996.

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