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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

An undiagnosed case of measles is in your emergency room -- how many health workers lack immunity?

The threat of sporadic hospital introductions of measles continues as misguided fears of the vaccine linger in certain populations and others defer immunization for religious or philosophical reasons.

Despite high immunization rates among health care workers, some remain susceptible – and they have a much greater chance of contracting the disease than the general public, according to study detailed in the February 2014 issue of Hospital Employee Health.

About 2% to 5% of U.S. health care workers may lack immunity, with greater susceptibility among younger workers. Health care workers are two to 19 times more likely to acquire measles than other adults, the study found.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention celebrated the 50th anniversary of the measles vaccine – which led to the elimination of endemic measles in North America – public health experts urged continued vigilance. In 2013, there were 175 measles cases in the United States. The second-highest number since measles was eliminated in 2000. Twenty of those measles patients were hospitalized.

The largest outbreaks were in New York, North Carolina and Texas, and the U.S. cases came from 52 known importations of the disease, about half of them from Europe, the CDC said. Many of the U.S. cases occur among people who refuse the vaccine for religious or philosophical reasons or infants too young to be vaccinated.

-- Michele Marrill, HEH editor