CDC on Monday announced the number of measles cases reported in the United States so far this year has surpassed 1,000, reaching 1,022 cases as of June 6 and setting the country on pace to see its worst measles outbreak since 1992.
US measles cases surpass 1,000
The number of measles cases reported so far this year surpassed the previous 25-year high, when 963 cases were reported in 1994. According to CDC, this year's measles outbreak is on pace to be the United States' worst such outbreak since 1992, when a total of 2,126 cases were reported for the entire year:
According to the latest CDC data, 28 states have reported measles cases as of June 6. CDC researchers said Idaho and Virginia last week reported the states' first measles cases of this year:
Measles is largely 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 its spread.
CDC researchers have attributed the high number of measles cases in 2019 to a few large outbreaks in the United States, including one in Washington and two in New York. A large number of the measles outbreaks reported so far in 2019 were associated with close-knit communities where individuals are underimmunized. CDC officials said misinformation about the risks of vaccinations has led to lower vaccination rates in the communities facing outbreaks.
The United States could be at risk of losing its World Health Organization designation as a country that has eliminated the disease if the number of U.S. measles cases continues to rise. A country is considered to have eliminated measles after an absence of continuous spread of the disease for more than a year, and the United States in 2000 largely eliminated person-to-person transmission of the measles.
Federal officials look to combat measles
HHS Secretary Alex Azar last week again urged parents to ensure their kids are vaccinated against measles. Azar said, "We cannot say this enough: Vaccines are a safe and highly effective public health tool that can prevent this disease and end the current outbreak. The measles vaccine is among the most-studied medical products we have and is given safely to millions of children and adults each year."
Separately, CDC released a toolkit intended to help health care providers combat measles outbreaks. The toolkit includes:
- A guide on how to talk to parents about vaccinating their children;
- An explanation of the risks of not vaccinating a child;
- An infographic explaining the risks of measles;
- A vaccine schedule for children ages 0 to 6;
- Fact sheets on vaccines; and
- Posters for providers to display in health care facilities.
Azar said CDC and other agencies throughout HHS "will continue … efforts to support local health departments and health care providers in responding to this situation, with the ultimate goal of stopping the outbreak and the spread of misinformation about vaccines, and increasing the public's confidence in vaccines to help all Americans live healthier lives, safe from vaccine-preventable diseases" (Borter, Reuters, 6/10; Kommers, Becker's Clinical Leadership & Infection Control, 6/10; Weixel, The Hill, 6/6; Weixel, The Hill, 6/10; Lawrence, USA Today, 6/11; CDC measles update, 6/10).