Oahu named among US counties at ‘high risk’ of measles outbreak

Offbeat: Cook County, Illinois, tops the list, followed by Los Angeles County, California, and Miami-Dade County, Florida —

Offbeat: Cook County, Illinois, tops the list, followed by Los Angeles County, California, and Miami-Dade County, Florida —

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This year, the US has reported 704 confirmed measles cases in 22 states, compared to 372 cases in 2018, 120 cases in 2017 and 86 cases in 2016. "Measles, in particular, poses a serious public health threat due to the highly contagious nature of the disease".

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and UT Austin ranked Travis County 22nd on the list, citing its high rates of nonmedical childhood vaccination exemptions and its high volume of worldwide travel.

The number of confirmed measles cases in the US has almost doubled since a year ago, with more than 700 cases since January 2019, and researchers warned the epidemic could worsen. Although measles was officially eliminated from the USA in 2000, the ongoing outbreak shows that the nation remains at risk. The report blames the increasingly visible anti-vaccine movement for the uptick in measles cases nationally, although it doesn't go into detail on the level of vaccination in IL.

"For measles, most experts believe that there will be one to two deaths per 1,000 cases, most likely infants", said the study's lead author, Sahotra Sarkar, a philosophy and integrative biology professor at UT Austin.

A newly released study listed four Florida counties among the most vulnerable for a measles outbreak.

The analysis correctly predicts the regions in Washington, Oregon, and NY that have already seen major measles outbreaks this year.

The report, published Thursday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, said that although Cook County has only reported one case of measles in 2019, the disease could become an issue here because of the presence of Chicago's two major global airports. Many people flying into the city are coming from countries where children do not get vaccinated.

"The New York borough of Brooklyn is a flawless example with a large number of unvaccinated members of an orthodox Jewish community even though the overall county vaccination rate is not low", Sakar says.

The predictions were published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. To see the complete list of at-risk counties, visit this interactive map.

Other authors on this study include Aleksa Zlojutro of the University of New South Wales Sydney and Kamran Khan of St. Michaels Hospital in Toronto.