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May 1, 2019

Charted: Measles cases hit 25-year high

Daily Briefing

    The total number of U.S. measles cases reported in 2019 now has reached the highest level in a single year since 1994, according to a CDC report released Monday.

    How any organization can achieve universal vaccination

    Measles cases spread throughout US

    According to the report, 22 states have reported a total of 704 measles cases as of April 26, which is the highest number of measles cases since 1994, when a total of 963 measles cases were reported in the country.

    CDC researchers have attributed the high number of measles cases in 2019 to a few large measles outbreaks in the United States, including one in Washington and two in New York. The researchers found 12 states have reported a total of 13 measles outbreaks so far in 2019. The outbreaks account for 94%—or 663—of the total measles cases reported in 2019, according to CDC.

    According to the Washington Post, the United States in 2000 effectively eliminated person-to-person transmission of the measles. However, the disease is highly contagious and requires communities to maintain measles vaccination levels between 93% and 95% to prevent the disease's spread of the disease, the Post reports.

    CDC researchers found six of the measles outbreaks that have been reported in 2019, which account for 88% of all measles cases reported in the United States so far this year, were associated with close-knit communities where individuals are underimmunized. CDC officials said misinformation about the risks of vaccinations have led to lower vaccination rates in the communities facing outbreaks, the Post reports.

    Overall, researchers found 71%—or 503—of all the U.S. measles cases reported so far in 2019 have involved unvaccinated individuals, while 76 of the cases involved vaccinated individuals. The researchers said it is unclear whether the vaccinated individuals who contracted the measles received one or two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. One dose of the vaccine is 93% effective against the measles and two doses are 97% effective, the Post reports. The researchers noted they could not determine vaccination statuses in 125 of the measles cases.

    According to the report, more than one-third of measles cases have involved children under the age 5 and 29% have involved individuals between the ages of 5 and 19.

    CDC researchers found 9%—or 66—of the measles cases reported so far this year have resulted in hospitalizations. The researchers said the hospitalizations included 24 patients with pneumonia. So far, no one has died from the 2019 measles outbreak, the Post reports.

    Officials urge vaccination

    HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, "We are very concerned about the recent troubling rise in cases of measles." He continued, "Vaccine-preventable diseases belong in the history books, not in our emergency [departments]. The suffering we are seeing today is completely avoidable. Vaccines are safe because they are among the most-studied medical products we have."

    Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said CDC is working with health care providers and community leaders to "spread clear, consistent, and credible … information" about vaccinations and measles to help address the concerns of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

    According to Vox, CDC now is recommending that all U.S. residents check to ensure they have been adequately vaccinated against measles, particularly, individuals who were born from 1957 through 1989. CDC said it is likely individuals born during those years were given a weaker version of the vaccine and, at the time, it was common for children to receive just one dose of the immunization, Vox reports (Sun, Washington Post, 4/29; Alltucker, USA Today, 4/29; Weixel, The Hill, 4/29; Belluz, Vox, 4/29).

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