Measles Making a Return in North America

Created: 04/01/2014 6:52 PM
By: Hannah Tran

A virus that was once thought to be eradicated in modern days is making a comeback in recent years, but a record outbreak is sweeping through several communities in British Columbia. 

"Measles is the most contagious human disease known to us," said Professor of Medicine of Mayo Clinic and infectious disease researcher Dr. Greg Poland. Poland has written published works on the topic in the past and continues to study the virus intensively. 

"It still gets imported from foreign countries, but we didn't have any new cases arise within the U.S. population, that of course is no longer true," said Poland. 

Over a decade ago, cases of measles appeared dormant from modern society. Dr. Greg Polan says from the year 2000 and beyond immunization rates were high.

A record outbreak of over 300 cases of measles has spread throughout parts of British Columbia during the past four weeks. California is seeing an alarming number of cases as well. Most of the cases involved people who were not vaccinated. Steve and Victoria Carrico live in Orange County, California, where there are 21 confirmed cases of the measles so far, but say they're not going to vaccinate their 2-year-old twin daughters. 

"We told them no vaccinations right off the bat and we feel that we're making these decisions on our own and we'll take responsibility for them," said Steve Carrico. 

Researchers say the measles vaccine has remained constant over the years. Dr. Linda Haeussinger from Olmsted County Health says, unlike the flu virus, the measles virus has not mutated over time. 

"It's the same vaccine formula for probably 15 to 20 years. It hasn't been upgraded since then,"she said. 

Still, Dr. Poland says that doesn't mean it can't be improved upon. 

"It's not an optimal vaccine and I've argued in our own scientific publication that we need a non-live virus next-generation vaccine," said Poland

Vaccinated or not, there are few effective treatments for measles. Dr. Poland says the best treatment is prevention.

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