Measles Cases Highest Since 1992, Elimination Status in Jeopardy

Megan Brooks

May 30, 2019

The number of US measles cases in first 5 months of 2019 have surpassed the total number of cases for any year since 1992, federal health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today.

According to the CDC, the United States has 971 cases of measles so far this year. That's the most cases reported in the United States since 1992, when 2126 cases were reported for the entire year.

More than half of the United States has now been hit with the highly contagious disease, with 26 states affected.

Outbreaks of measles in New York City and Rockland County, New York, have continued for nearly 8 months. If these outbreaks continue through the summer and fall, the United States could lose its measles elimination status, according to the CDC.

"That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health. The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1966 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task," the CDC said in the release.

Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 million to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations, according to the agency. Measles elimination was achieved through the widespread vaccination and strong public health infrastructure to detect and contain the disease.

"Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated," CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in a news release.

Concerns based on misinformation about the vaccine safety and effectiveness, as well as disease severity, may lead parents to delay or refuse vaccines.

Parents need to be reassured that "vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents," said Redfield. A parent's decision to vaccinate will protect their own family's health and the community's well-being, he added.

The CDC is continuing to work with affected state and local health departments to bring ongoing outbreaks under control.

The CDC advises that everyone 6 months and older should be protected against measles before traveling internationally. Babies 6 to 11 months old need one dose of measles vaccine before traveling. Everyone 12 months and older needs two doses. International travelers who are unsure of their vaccination status are advised to consult with their healthcare provider before traveling.

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