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Doctor Issues Warning as Measles Hits 3 New States: "Easier to Get Than COVID"

This highly contagious disease is quickly becoming a major concern in the U.S.

Measles is making a concerning comeback in the U.S. this year. The newest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that, in just three months, there have already been 64 measles cases reported in 2024—surpassing the 58 total cases in all of last year. This highly contagious disease was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000 due to a strong childhood vaccination program, but the CDC has long warned that it could become endemic in the nation again if vaccine coverage drops—which is something experts say is driving the current surge of cases. Read on to find out more about where measles is spreading in the U.S. and why one doctor is now claiming that it's "easier to get than COVID."

RELATED: CDC Issues New Warning to "Stay Alert" Amid Rising Measles Cases.

Three more states have reported measles cases.

Doctor hands examining infant leg. Little Kid allergy. Closeup. Child scratches a red rash. Nurse applies a special cream to atopic skin. Dermatitis, diathesis, irritation on the baby body. Pruritus

The CDC says that as of March 21, there have been a total of 64 measles cases reported this year throughout 17 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio were three of the most recent states to report their first cases, and investigators believe the new outbreaks in each were linked to visits to Florida, CBS News reported. According to the Florida Department of Health, there have been a total of 11 measles cases reported in the state so far this year—making it one of the most infected states in the U.S.

RELATED: Leprosy Cases Are Rising in the U.S.—These Are the Symptoms to Know.

One doctor now says measles is "easier to get than COVID."

Middle aged woman coughing in the street / Shutterstock

We all know how easily COVID-19 spreads. But in a new interview with ABC7 News, Peter Chin-Hong, MD, an infectious disease expert at the University of California San Francisco UCSF, is warning that people should be worried about measles being even more contagious.

"You can walk into a room, the patient with measles had already left two hours before and you could get measles," Chin-Hong told the news outlet. "It's going to be even easier to get than COVID."

This is something the doctor said people should be especially cognizant of right now as they plan spring break trips to Florida and summer vacations overseas. "Europe and other parts of the world are just swimming in measles right now," he warned.

RELATED: CDC Issues New Measles Alert for Travelers Going to 46 Countries.

Experts also warn about the drop in vaccinations.

vaccine in researcher hands, female doctor holds syringe and bottle with vaccine for coronavirus cure. Concept of corona virus treatment, injection, shot and clinical trial during pandemic.

The best way to protect yourself from this highly contagious disease is with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The CDC indicates that yearly surges in reported measles cases can often be attributed to "more spread of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people."

High vaccination levels are what led to measles being declared eliminated from the U.S. at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, experts say vaccine coverage in the country has been taking a turn for the worse recently.

"We've been seeing vaccinations decline in the United States in general, and we're dipping below that magical number of 95 percent of school-aged children vaccinated," Chin-Hong told ABC7 News. "If we dip below 95 percent, that means it can kind of find the cracks and crevices and infect people who are unvaccinated."

Measles can lead to serious complications.

Direction sign for a hospital and emergency room
Spiroview Inc / Shutterstock

Vaccine resistance grew during the COVID pandemic, and experts like Chin-Hong said they were worried that the "hesitancy around COVID vaccines would bleed into other vaccines" like that for the measles.

But with the recent decline in measles vaccination coverage, Sean O'Leary, MD, a professor of pediatrics-infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told The New York Times that another problem may be parents wrongly assuming "that measles is a mild disease."

While measles is most known for the rash it produces, it can become much more than that. According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the U.S. who get measles have to be hospitalized, and some of the serious complications from this infection include pneumonia and encephalitis.

"It is potentially a very severe disease," O'Leary warned.

It can also be fatal: "Nearly 1 to 3 of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications," according to the CDC.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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