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September 17, 2019

Is the US measles outbreak almost over?

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    Public health officials reported no new cases of the measles last week, according to CDC data updated Monday, suggesting the United States might not lose its World Health Organization (WHO) designation as a country that has eliminated measles. 

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    CDC records no new measles cases

    The latest CDC data show local health officials reported no new cases of the measles from Sep. 6 to Sep. 12. CDC said health officials have reported a total of 1,241 measles cases so far this year. The number of measles cases reported in the country so far this year is the highest reported in a single year since 1992, CDC said:

    According to the latest CDC data, 31 states have reported measles cases as of Sep. 12. CDC researchers noted more than 75% of measles cases this year were linked to outbreaks in New York. CDC officials said there currently are measles outbreaks in New York's Rockland and Wyoming counties:

    Measles largely is preventable with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. One dose of the vaccine is 93% effective at preventing measles, and two doses are 97% effective against the disease. But the disease is highly contagious and requires communities to maintain measles vaccination levels between 93% and 95% to prevent the disease's spread.

    While the spread of measles in the country appears to have slowed in recent weeks, health officials have raised concerns that the rate of new measles cases could accelerate as children return to school and individuals travel for holidays.

    Will the US lose its measles elimination status?

    Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, last month warned there is a "reasonable chance" WHO would rescind the United States' designation as a country that has eliminated measles if the ongoing outbreaks continue beyond Sept. 30 of this year. WHO considers a country to have eliminated measles after an absence of continuous spread of the disease for more than a year.

    However, if no new patients are diagnosed with measles in the remaining weeks of this month, the United States likely will not lose its status as a country that eliminated the disease, the AP reports.

    Jason Schwartz, a Yale University expert on vaccination policy, said, "To get to zero [new cases] is tremendously encouraging" (Borter, Reuters, 9/16; Hellmann, The Hill, 9/16; Keneally, ABC News, 9/16; Stobbe, Associated Press, 9/16).

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