Measles outbreaks in the U.S. and U.K. have sparked concern among health officials.
In Philadelphia, the state’s health department is currently tracking a measles outbreak, with nine cases confirmed as of Jan. 16.
Potential exposure dates ranged from Dec. 19 to Jan. 7.
The health department listed several addresses where people might have been exposed, including multiple hospitals and a day care.
Other U.S. states have also reported positive cases, although they are not yet classified as outbreaks.
In New Jersey, the state health department reported a confirmed case of measles on Jan. 13 — the first in the state since March 2023 — but the source has not been confirmed.
“No direct link has been identified to the ongoing measles outbreak in Philadelphia,” the statement said.
Also on Jan. 13, Virginia’s health department warned of potential exposures at Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 after an infected person flew into the state from an overseas trip.
“Measles is extremely contagious and needs to be contained.”
On Jan. 11, the state of Delaware reported a potential measles exposure at the Nemours Children’s Hospital in Wilmington that occurred on Dec. 29, with up to 30 people exposed to an infected person.
On Jan. 10, two counties in Washington confirmed six cases of measles, all stemming from one family.
Outside the U.S., the U.K. is currently experiencing a measles outbreak, with more than 1,600 people in England and Wales contracting the highly contagious disease in 2023 — up from 735 in 2022 and 360 in 2021, according to reports.
In 2019, there were 1,274 cases of measles reported in the U.S., per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That was the largest number of cases since 1992.
Most of those cases involved people who had not been vaccinated against the disease, the agency stated.
In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared measles “eliminated” in the U.S., meaning there were no cases for at least 12 months.
There is concern that WHO could rescind that designation if outbreaks continue for more than a year.
Tips for measles prevention
Measles is designated as a childhood infection that is caused by a virus, according to Mayo Clinic.
The highly contagious disease can be serious and even fatal for young children.
The CDC recommends that people get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination to prevent infection.
“Children should get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age,” the agency’s website states. “Teens and adults should also be up to date on their MMR vaccination. Two MMR vaccines are available for use in the United States, M-M-R II and PRIORIX.”
“It is important to monitor measles cases and be vigilant,” Renuga Vivekanandan, MD, assistant dean and professor at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, told Fox News Digital.
The doctor blamed a decrease in vaccinations for the uptick.
“Overall, there has been vaccination hesitancy since the pandemic, with a decrease in vaccinations among children who can develop complications from measles, in addition to significant bad outcomes, such as meningitis,” she warned.
“Staying up to date on the MMR vaccine can boost immunity and help prevent outbreaks.”
As far as what’s causing measles outbreaks, Vivekanandan noted that with global travel and a decrease in vaccinations, “measles can spread anywhere quickly.”
“It’s important for medical providers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles, know how to test for it and isolate any patients who have tested positive, since measles is extremely contagious and needs to be contained,” she added.
In addition to receiving an MMR vaccination, Vivekanandan said individuals should seek medical care if they believe they have developed measles.
Symptoms include tiny white spots on the inner cheek lining, fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes, and large, flat blotches on the skin, per Mayo Clinic.
The highest-risk groups include children, immunocompromised and non-immunized individuals, and pregnant women, the doctor warned.