Global Virus Network Warns U.S. of Growing Measles Threat
BALTIMORE–(BUSINESS WIRE)– The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s leading medical virology research centers working to prevent illness and death from viral disease, today warned the U.S. of a startling rise in measles cases particularly in the last couple of years. Measles were eliminated in the U.S. by 2000, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the first eight months of 2013 the U.S. saw nearly 160 cases of measles – which many believe will rise as a growing number of parents choose not to vaccinate their children in which state law does not otherwise apply.
“Measles is a dangerous disease. We lose sight of the dangers because currently the disease is rare in the US and usually imported from other countries where measles is more prevalent,” explains Dr. Diane Griffin, GVN Center of Excellence Director and Alfred and Jill Sommer Professor and Chair, W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Biology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Griffin continued, “While most cases resolve with no complications in 10-14 days, measles can cause diarrhea and ear infections, as well as other serious side effects – seizures, pneumonia and encephalitis, which can each lead to death. The most vulnerable in the US are those under the age of 12 to 15 months, when the measles vaccine is usually given. Infants are therefore at the highest risk. Those who do not vaccinate their own children place infants of other families at risk as well as their own children.”
As experts and leading researchers on all viral diseases, GVN Centers of Excellence are working to improve the measles vaccine and better understand the complications of measles for the global population. “There is still much to do in terms of improving vaccinations against measles. While the two dose regimen provides protection for populations when delivered appropriately, a single dose regimen would be ideal and for developing countries a vaccine that did not need refrigeration or require a needle and syringe would facilitate delivery,” notes Professor Griffin, whose own laboratory focuses on understanding how the body responds to the measles vaccine to provide protection. She explained further that research to develop a dry powder vaccine delivered by inhalation is one promising line of research. The dry powder vaccine uses the same safe live vaccine virus that is currently given by a shot, but is given through a face mask. This way trained medical personnel, refrigeration and needles and syringes are not required. The dry powder vaccine is effective in animal models and is currently being tested in humans.
For the looming situation in the United States, Professor Griffin encouraged all families to ensure that their children are properly vaccinated against measles. “We cannot sit back and wait for measles to once again take hold in the United States,” she warned.
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