Measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but in recent years we have seen measles reappear primarily as a result of people bringing the virus to the U.S. from other countries. During the last decade, we have seen approximately 100 cases of measles per year in the U.S. However, in 2014, there were 644 cases reported, and already this year there have been over 100 cases. Many of this year’s cases are connected to a large, multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. To date, there has been one case in Michigan (an adult). With all the news stories about measles, it’s easy to be concerned, but knowing the facts can ease your mind.
The constant stream of news about Ebola right now is enough to scare anyone.
Whether it’s the epidemic in West Africa, the isolated cases in the U.S. and Europe, the impact on travelers, or the search for new treatments and vaccines, the headlines just keep coming at us.
But a U-M doctor and medical historian says it’s time to step back, and get some perspective on the situation.
After all, says Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., we’ve all been here before, and history teaches us a great deal about how societies respond to epidemics and handle the fears associated with them. Markel directs the U-M Center for the History of Medicine, and is a professor in the U-M Medical School, School of Public Health and Department of History.
Q: The scary headlines come at us constantly. How concerned should the average American be?
A: You should pay attention, certainly, but, at this point in time, there’s no need to get into the frenzy about Ebola in the United States. We all need to take a breath and do a reality check.
In late August, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., began seeing an unusual number of children experiencing respiratory problems. The patients tested positive on a respiratory panel administered by the hospital, but that panel could not identify the specific virus. Staff sent the samples to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for further analysis. The CDC determined that the patients were suffering from Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).
There are about 100 different types of Enterovirus. From June to October every year, some type of Enterovirus usually circulates in the United States. If you’ve ever had a summer cold, it was probably caused by an Enterovirus. EV-D68 specifically is something we don’t typically see in the U.S., but it has been around since the 1960s.
While we’ve seen an increase in patient volume at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital emergency department and in our Intensive Care Unit, we cannot conclusively say that these patients have EV-D68. The only way to know is to have lab samples examined by the CDC, which we are working on now.
One night in the emergency department back when I was in medical school, I noticed a mom there with her young children around midnight. One of her children appeared to a have a cold and symptoms of mild pink eye. Curious, I wondered what brought the family to the ED in the middle of the night. When I asked her, she said, “I need to get my child seen by a doctor so he can get back into child care and I can go to work.”