U.S. on track for record number of measles cases this year

With 118 measles infections reported in the United States as of May 20, with most reported cases originating from other countries, the number of cases is on track to be a record year in 2011.

Southern Asia, Africa and Europe are the sources of most cases due to concerns of vaccination side effects and immigration from areas that have low availability of medication, Third Age reports. While the United States has an estimated vaccination coverage of 90 percent to 95 percent, the highly infectious nature of measles can lead one vaccinated person to cause an outbreak.

Up to 90 percent of people that are exposed to an individual with measles will get sick. The virus travels through the air and droplets containing the disease can stay in a room for two hours after the introducing individual has left. Of the 118 cases, 89 percent of them were in unvaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recent surveys by the CDC have shown that hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren have received philosophical or medical exemptions from getting at least one otherwise mandatory childhood vaccination. Some communities have up to 30 percent of schoolchildren unvaccinated.

Forty-five of the cases in the U.S. were in children between the ages of one to 19 years old. Thirty-nine of those cases were in unvaccinated children. Though not often fatal, one or two children out of 1,000 infected may die from the disease.