By MIKE STOBBE 05/ 5/11 05:48 AM ET
ATLANTA — The United States seems to be on track to have more measles cases than any year in more than a decade, with virtually all cases linked to other countries, including Europe where there’s a big outbreak.
Already there have been 89 cases reported so far. The U.S. normally sees only about 50 cases of measles in a year thanks to vaccinations.
Health officials are reluctant to make predictions, but acknowledge the pace of reports is unusually hot.
Europe, especially France, has been hit hard by measles, with more than 6,500 cases reported in 33 nations. International health officials are blaming it on the failure to vaccinate all children.
Just about all U.S. outbreaks were sparked by people bringing it here from other countries. This week, international health officials posted an alert urging travelers everywhere to get the recommended two doses of vaccine before flying overseas.
“The risk of getting infection is very high,” said Dr. Cuauhtemoc Ruiz Matus, an immunization expert with the Pan American Health Organization.
In the U.S., the worst year for measles in the last decade was 2008, when 140 cases were reported. There have been no measles deaths this year, but health officials warn the disease can be dangerous.
Measles is highly contagious and up to 90 percent of people exposed to an infected person get sick, experts say. The virus spreads easily through the air, and in closed rooms, infected droplets can linger for up to two hours after the sick person leaves.
An analysis of the long-term cycle in the spread of measles in Italy