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CDC: Record-Breaking Year For Measles Due To Travel, Non-Vaccinated Residents

Back of female with measles/ Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images/flickr

Back of female with measles/ Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images/flickr

Measles, one of the most contagious diseases in the world, was officially eliminated from the U.S. in the year 2000.

Nevertheless, we’re in the midst of a record-breaking year for measles in this country, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 288 confirmed cases so far.

There are two main reasons for the spike, said Anne Schuchat, M.D. (RADM, USPHS) assistant surgeon general, United States Public Health Service and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, speaking at a telebriefing for reporters today.

First, she said, travelers are importing measles into the U.S. from other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific, notably the Philippines, which has been experiencing a large measles outbreak. In addition, Schuchat said, the imported measles is spreading within communities of non-vaccinated people.

CDC: It's a record-breaking year for measles

CDC: It’s a record-breaking year for measles

From the agency’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report:

Most of the 288 measles cases reported this year have been in persons who were unvaccinated (69%) or who had an unknown vaccination status (20%); 30 (10%) were in persons who were vaccinated. Among the 195 U.S. residents who had measles and were unvaccinated, 165 (85%) declined vaccination because of religious, philosophical, or personal objections, 11 (6%) were missed opportunities for vaccination, and 10 (5%) were too young to receive vaccination.

When asked if the non-vaccinated U.S. residents who contracted measles had declined shots due to widely discredited information linking autism to the MMR vaccine, Schuchat said no, public health officials don’t believe that to be true.

Her bottom line message was clear, however: “This year we are breaking records for measles,” Schuchat said. “And it’s a wake up call. Measles may be forgotten but it’s not gone.” Continue reading

Added Fear Of Flying: Disease-Causing Bacteria Linger On Plane Surfaces

(Doug/flickr)

(Doug/flickr)

Add this to your lengthy list of flying-related miseries: disease-causing bacteria that live on airplane armrests, tray tables, toilet buttons and other surfaces can linger on and on — for up to an entire week.

This new data, with its off-the-charts gross factor, comes from scientists attending the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. From the news release:

In order for disease-causing bacteria to be transmitted from a cabin surface to a person, it must survive the environmental conditions in the airplane. In the study Kiril Vaglenov, of Auburn University who presented the data, and his colleagues tested the ability of two pathogens, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7 to survive on surfaces commonly found in airplanes. They obtained six different types of material from a major airline carrier (armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth, and leather), inoculated them with the bacteria and exposed them to typical airplane conditions.

MRSA lasted longest (168 hours) on material from the seat-back pocket while E. coli O157:H7 survived longest (96 hours) on the material from the armrest.

“Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on the selected types of surfaces independent of the type of simulated body fluid present, and those pose a risk of transmission via skin contact,” says Vaglenov.

This research is laying the groundwork for important work to come.

“Our future plans include the exploration of effective cleaning and disinfection strategies, as well as testing surfaces that have natural antimicrobial properties to determine whether these surfaces help reduce the persistence of disease-causing bacteria in the passenger aircraft cabin,” says Vaglenov.

A Must-Read On Health Insurance If You’re Traveling Abroad

(Kuster & Wildhaber Photography/flickr)

Many of us — for better or worse — are traveling in the coming weeks or months. And if you’ve ever had to bring a sick child to a health clinic in a country where you don’t speak the language, you know how harrowing getting medical care while on “vacation” can be. (Not to mention the sticker shock when you get the bill.) Here’s a really helpful post on Healthcare Savvy by Sue (Sunni) Patterson that offers everything you’ll need to know about health insurance coverage if you’re out of the U.S. The bottom line: plan ahead as best you can.

You may be closing out 2011 with a holiday trip, domestically or internationally. If you plan to leave the country, you may want to consider the following when it comes to your health:

You may not have health insurance coverage for illnesses or injuries that are treated abroad, even if you have U.S. based medical coverage. Confirm with your benefits administrator.

Generally, Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs incurred abroad, however, rare circumstances may be covered.

AARP can assist with obtaining foreign medical coverage and offers valuable travel tips.

U.S. consulate personnel will help you locate health care providers and facilities and even contact family members, if necessary.
You can purchase travel insurance that covers health care needs and pays for medical evacuation if you need to be transported back to the US for treatment.

Obtaining medical treatment in another country can be expensive and a medical evacuation can cost over $50,000. Plus, you may encounter challenges with deciphering charges while abroad. Be vigilant, prepared, and follow the same self-advocacy steps you would while receiving medical care in your home state.

If you choose to purchase medical expense coverage while traveling abroad, double check you’ve carefully researched the following:

–Trip cancellation clauses or reasons. You may want to choose an optional ‘cancel for any reason rider’.
–Inclusion of a waiver to a pre-existing condition exclusion.
–Plan coverage exclusions, situations and conditions.
–Save all receipts and document everything from the start of a condition; contact your plan representative immediately.
–Does the policy include medical evacuation coverage? If not, you may want to consider purchasing this optional coverage.
–Purchase travel insurance at the same time you pay for your trip. It’s too late after you’ve had an accident or become sick.

For more information about international travel preparation, visit the U.S. Department of State website.