Conference Coverage

Measles complications in the U.S. unchanged in posteradication era



– An evaluation of the measles threat in the modern era gives no indication that the risk of complications or death is any different than it was before a vaccine became available, according to an analysis of inpatient complications between 2002 and 2013.

Dr. Raj Chovatiya

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States, but for those who have been infected since that time, the risk of serious complications and death has not diminished, noted Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD, in a session at the annual meeting of the Society for Investigative Dermatology.

By eliminated, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention – which reported 86 confirmed cases of measles in 2000 – was referring to a technical definition of no new endemic or continuous transmissions in the previous 12 months. It was expected that a modest number of cases of this reportable disease would continue to accrue for an infection that remains common elsewhere in the world.

“Worldwide there are about 20 million cases of measles annually with an estimated 100,000 deaths attributed to this cause,” said Dr. Chovatiya, who is a dermatology resident at Northwestern University, Chicago.

Courtesy Dr. Gary White

In the United States, posteradication infection rates remained at low levels for several years but were already rising from 2002 to 2013, when Dr. Chovatiya and his coinvestigators sought to describe the incidence, associations, comorbidities, and outcomes of hospitalizations for measles. Toward the end of the period the researchers were examining the incidence rates climbed more steeply.

“So far this year, 764 CDC cases of measles [were] reported. That is the most we have seen in the U.S. since 1994,” Dr. Chovatiya said.

Based on his analysis of hospitalizations from 2002 to 2013, the threat of these outbreaks is no different then that before the disease was declared eliminated or before a vaccine became available.

The cross-sectional study was conducted with data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, an all-payer database that is considered to be a representative of national trends.

Characteristic of measles, the majority of the 582 hospitalizations evaluated over this period occurred in children aged between 1 and 9 years. The proportion of patients with preexisting chronic comorbid conditions was low. Rather, “most were pretty healthy” prior to admission, according to Dr. Chovatiya, who said that the majority of admissions were from an emergency department.


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