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US CDC urges measles vaccinations amid rising cases

A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle

(Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday issued a health advisory urging people, particularly children and international travelers, to get vaccinated against measles due to the increase in cases this year.

The CDC had recorded 58 cases of the disease across 17 jurisdictions, as of March 14, same as the whole of 2023.

Most cases reported this year have been among children aged 12 months and older who had not received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the CDC said, and asked healthcare providers to ensure children are vaccinated against the disease.

The agency said the risk of widescale spread was low, given the currently high immunity levels in the population against measles in most U.S. communities, but added some pockets may have a greater likelihood of outbreaks.

The American Medical Association on Monday also urged Americans to get vaccinated against measles.

"We are reminding physicians to talk with their patients about the health risks associated with not being vaccinated and to make a strong recommendation for vaccinations, unless medically inadvisable," said Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, president of the U.S. doctors' body.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. It requires 95% vaccine coverage to prevent outbreaks among populations.

However, according to the CDC, coverage with measles vaccines among U.S. children in kindergarten has decreased to 93.1% in the 2022–2023 school year from 95.2% in 2019–2020.

This has left approximately 250,000 kindergartners susceptible to the disease each year over the last three years, the CDC added.

Declines in measles vaccination rates globally have also increased the risk of measles outbreaks worldwide. The agency added that cases continue to be brought into the United States by travelers infected in other countries.

(Reporting by Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Ravi Prakash Kumar)