April 25, 2019

It's official: US has highest number of measles cases since the disease was eradicated

Daily Briefing

    CDC on Wednesday announced that the total number of U.S. measles cases so far in 2019 has exceeded the record for the highest number of measles cases in a single year since the United States eliminated the disease in 2000.

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    US measles cases break annual record since 2000

    CDC said 22 states have reported a total of 695 measles cases as of April 24. The number of measles cases in 2019 breaks the previous record of measles cases reported post-2000, at 667 measles cases reported in 2014.

    CDC said the U.S. measles cases stem from unvaccinated travelers who visit countries where measles are widely transmitted, become infected with the disease, and then return to the United States and expose other unvaccinated individuals.

    CDC attributed the high number of measles cases in 2019 to a few large measles outbreaks, including one in Washington and two in New York. CDC said New York's outbreaks "are among the largest and longest" since 2000. CDC said, "The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States." The agency added, "[O]nce measles is in an under-vaccinated community, it becomes difficult to control the spread of the disease."

    HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement said measles cases are "avoidable." He said, "Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken." He added that CDC is prepared to help local public health departments monitor and respond to measles outbreaks.

    The latest available state-by-state data show, as of April 19, measles outbreaks were ongoing in five states, with measles cases in 17 other states reported to CDC.

    CDC said it plans to release new data on the number of measles cases on April 29 as part of the agency's campaign to encourage vaccinations (Gonzales, NPR, 4/24; Weixel, The Hill, 4/24; Sun, Washington Post, 4/24). 

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