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US sees biggest measles outbreak since 2019

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An outbreak of measles in the US state of Ohio has infected 82 children so far - the biggest eruption of the disease in the county since 2019.

The first cases were reported on 9 November near the city of Columbus at a nursery. By the end of the month, cases were seen at a market, mall and church.

Nearly all of the cases have been in young children who are not fully vaccinated against the disease.

Child vaccinations against measles fell amid the Covid pandemic, experts says.

Measles is highly contagious - more so than Covid - and can cause serious illness.

The figures reported over the past two months in Ohio are more than for the whole of the US in the previous two years. In 2022, 117 measles cases were reported, compared to 49 cases the previous year and 13 cases in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, 32 of the infected children in Ohio have been admitted to hospital.

As well as a distinctive rash, measles can lead to severe complications, such as pneumonia and brain inflammation, and sometimes can be fatal.

Vaccination can remove almost all of these risks.

All of the Ohio cases have been reported in children 17 or younger, with 94% affecting infants, babies and children under five years old.

It appears that all of the children are at least partially unvaccinated, meaning that they have not received the necessary two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, known as MMR. Four of the children do not have a known vaccination status, according to local health officials.

Children are recommended to get their first dose between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second round between 4 and 6.

A recent report from the World Health Organization found that in 2021, nearly 25m children worldwide missed their first vaccination, while nearly 15m children missed their second dose.

Measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, but has seen a resurgence in the years since, though the number of cases is below past historic highs.

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