THURSDAY, April 7, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but cases continue to occur among U.S. residents who return from trips to other countries, as well as among foreign visitors to the United States, says a new government report.
"Measles importations and transmission from imported cases continue to pose a threat to U.S. residents," warns a team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various state health departments. "Travelers can be exposed to measles in the country of travel or while en route to and from that country, in airports or on airplanes," they add.
According to the researchers, young children are at greatest risk of complications or death from measles, which is highly contagious but can be prevented by vaccination.
In the first two months of this year, the CDC reported 13 cases of "imported measles" among U.S. residents, including seven cases of measles among American infants aged 6 to 23 months who had traveled to other countries.
The agency notes that that two-month total is comparable to the average annual caseload seen each year between 2001 and 2010.
Four of the children infected with measles in the 2011 cases had to be hospitalized due to severe measles-related complications, the CDC said.
It's likely that all of these cases could have been prevented if the children had received recommended vaccinations, the authors said.
Children aged 6 to 11 months should be given one dose of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine before traveling to other countries, and children aged 1 year and older should receive two doses (separated by at least 28 days) of the vaccine before international travel, the authors recommended.
Up-to-date vaccinations are also essential for international travelers of all ages, they added.
The authors also said doctors should consider measles as a possible diagnosis when dealing with patients with a skin rash who have recently traveled outside of the United States.
The report is published in the April 8 issue of the CDC's journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The World Health Organization has more about measles.