Measles: Why 'the most infectious' disease is coming back

Vaccination is key to controlling measles numbers

In a recent CNN column, CDC Director Tom Frieden warns that measles—long considered a dormant disease in the in the United States—is resurging, with 175 confirmed cases and 20 hospitalizations so far this year.

Usually there about 60 cases of measles in the United States per year, mostly from travelers or non-residents. According to Frieden, the United States has largely avoided outbreaks of the disease thanks to the development of the measles vaccine and its widespread use.

But this year, there have been nine outbreaks, with the largest in New York, North Carolina, and Texas. About 98% of those measles patients were unvaccinated, Frieden writes.

"This isn't the failure of a vaccine; it's the failure to vaccinate," according to Frieden, adding that parents "should protect their children by making sure they've had two doses of measles vaccine."

Years later, vaccine scare leaves its mark on Welsh town

"Although most of us don't realize it because it is so rare in our country, measles is a serious disease. Worldwide, on an average day, 430 children—18 every hour—die from measles and its complications," Frieden writes. 

Frieden notes that measles may be the most infectious of all infectious diseases. "Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, nine of 10 people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected," he writes.

Since 2001, CDC has vaccinated more than 1 billion children through partnerships across the world, Frieden writes.  "We must continue to be vigilant about measles transmission here at home," Frieden writes, adding that these "steps will protect the United States from measles until the world becomes measles-free" (Frieden, CNN, 12/5; Szabo, USA Today, 12/5).

Next in the Daily Briefing

U.S. charges dozens of Russian diplomats with Medicaid fraud

Read now