Cases of measles, a highly contagious and deadly disease, are surging in parts of the US, worrying doctors and public health experts.

This year, so far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has recorded 64 cases, already more than the 58 counted in 2023. The cases have popped up in 17 states, including at a Chicago migrant shelter, a Florida elementary school, and at a restaurant in Arizona.

Most cases are linked to unvaccinated travelers, possibly driven by an uptick in measles cases abroad—in the European Union, for example, officials counted more than 42,000 cases in 2023, up from just 942 in 2022. About one in five unvaccinated people who become infected with measles are hospitalized due to complications.

While there’s currently no widespread measles outbreak in the US, a resurgence is increasingly likely as a result of lower vaccination rates after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeffrey Griffiths, a professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, and Helen Boucher, dean of Tufts School of Medicine, recently offered their advice to those concerned about measles affecting them or their family.

Measles Can Be Severe And Even Life Threatening

Measles is a viral illness with initial symptoms similar to a common cold, such as a fever, dry cough, runny nose, and sore throat. But unlike a common cold, measles typically also causes a red and blotchy skin rash, which appears first on the face and can spread to the rest of the body. Another distinct sign of measles is conjunctivitis, or red, inflamed eyes.

“If your kid gets a rash and red eyes, that’s when you know they need to be checked out by a doctor,” Griffiths says.

The most severe cases of measles for both adults and children can cause swelling of the brain, or encephalitis, which can lead to lifelong impairments such as deafness and intellectual disabilities. Encephalitis occurs in about one in every 1,000 infected people. About one in every 20 infected children also develop measles pneumonia. Out of every 1,000 children who are infected, 1–3 of them will die from respiratory and neurologic complications, according to the CDC.

Cases of measles are much worse for people whose immune systems are already weak, Griffiths says. Children who are immunocompromised or take immunocompromising drugs are particularly at risk of developing severe symptoms.

Read the full article about measles surge at Futurity.