Written by By Michele Baquedano, CNN
A measles outbreak that killed five U.S. children in 2014 is now “ending,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. At a press conference in Washington, administrator Tom Frieden said 1,813 cases — compared to the previous 11,630 since measles began spreading in 2013 — have been confirmed.
About 550 new measles cases have been reported across the United States so far this year, falling within the range forecast. But Frieden urged parents to vaccinate their children before the 2017 fall and winter season begins in late September.
“We’ve definitely reached the peak of the surge. We are getting back to the usual community level,” he said.
By next year, the national rate of unvaccinated children will drop to “an unacceptably high level,” Frieden said. He believes the long-term trend of rising rates of vaccinated children will decline significantly.
But states should not wait until the nationwide numbers begin falling to increase vaccinations, said CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald.
More than 40 states have recently faced measles outbreaks from an increase in unvaccinated children. The increases in unvaccinated children have been noticed in almost every state, spanning all U.S. regions, in several categories of children and among vaccinated and unvaccinated children, and among children whose parents decide to practice personal or religious reasons to refrain from vaccinating.
The unvaccinated children are often too young to receive the full measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and must be excluded from classes where children are at high risk of getting sick, according to HealthLine, a division of the CDC.
Measles is a respiratory disease that is easily preventable, according to the CDC. Symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and body rashes. The virus is spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing.
The CDC estimates that vaccination increases by more than 100 cases per year. Vaccination rates in the United States are close to 100%, meaning that fewer than 1 in 25 U.S. children who are eligible for measles immunization do not receive the vaccine, the CDC says.
Since 2008, about 92% of children have been immunized for measles, according to data from the CDC.