- Cook County, Illinois, is the US county most at risk of a measles outbreak this year, according to research in the scientific journal the Lancet Infectious Diseases.
- They compiled a list of the 25 most at-risk counties based on vaccination rates, population size, and the number of travellers in the area, with California, Texas, and Florida particularly at risk.
- The list comes as the US faces a surge of measles cases fuelled by a growing anti-vaccinations movement.
- The researchers said that the list was necessary so that the areas could be monitored and targeted. A rising number of measles cases is increasing the likelihood one will prove fatal.
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Researchers have identified the 25 US countries that are the most likely to experience measles outbreaks this year, based on factors like low vaccination rates and a high number of travellers in the area.
The paper, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases on Thursday, identifies Cook County, Illinois, as the most at risk, followed by Los Angeles County and Miami-Dade County, Florida.
It identifies multiple locations in California, Texas, and Florida, as well as counties in 15 other states.
Measles is highly contagious. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus can be contracted from just breathing the same air from an area that an infected person was in up to two hours after the person was there.
The 25 counties the study identified as the most at risk were:
- 1. Cook, Illinois
- 2. Los Angeles
- 3. Miami-Dade, Florida
- 4. Queens, New York
- 5. King, Washington
- 6. Maricopa, Arizona
- 7. Broward, Florida
- 8. Clark, Nevada
- 9. Harris, Texas
- 10. Honolulu
- 11. Wayne, Michigan
- 12. Tarrant, Texas
- 13. Multnomah, Oregon
- 14. Orange, Florida
- 15. Essex, New Jersey
- 16. Denver, Colorado
- 17. Hillsborough, Florida
- 18. San Mateo, California
- 19. Salt Lake, Utah
- 20. Suffolk, Massachusetts
- 21. Clayton, Georgia
- 22. Travis, Texas
- 23. Hennepin, Minnesota
- 24. Loudoun, Virginia
- 25. San Diego
The study comes as measles cases surge around the US and the world, fuelled by a growing anti-vaccination movement.
The World Health Organisation reported in April that measles cases rose by 300% globally in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same time in 2018.
To identify the places in the US most at risk of an outbreak, the researchers combined three factors:
- How often people were exempt from vaccinations for nonmedical reasons.
- How many travellers from countries with measles pass through the area.
- The population and size of the area.
The researchers said that their results “correctly predicted the areas in Washington, Oregon, and New York that have had major measles outbreaks” already this year.
The paper’s lead author, Sahotra Sarkar, a philosophy and integrative biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said that this increase could result in deaths in the US: “We are set to see over 1,000 cases in the US in 2019. So, for the first time since the 1980s, we may expect infant deaths from measles in the US.”
Measles cannot be treated, though doctors can treat the symptoms, which include a fever, coughing, and rashes. It can be deadly in some cases, causing potentially fatal brain swelling in about 1 in 1,000 people that get the virus.
Sarkar said: “Anti-vaxxers are denying the best and very successful medical science we have and choosing instead to rely on fraudulent claims, such as a purported link to autism, that have been uniformly debunked by evidence and analysis over the last two decades.”
Lauren Gardner, an author of the study and an associate professor in Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Civil Engineering, said it was “critical that we proactively identify areas most likely to experience outbreaks to strategically target for surveillance and control” in light of increasing cases.
“There has been a resurgence of measles cases, among other vaccine preventable diseases, in the U.S. and other countries in recent years. Measles, in particular, poses a serious public health threat due to the highly contagious nature of the disease,” she said.
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