• Confirmed U.S. Measles Cases Now Highest in 25 Years

    CDC, HHS Stress Vaccination as Best Way to Control Disease

    April 25, 2019 04:51 pm News Staff – It's official: Less than four months into the year, the United States has racked up the largest number of measles cases in a quarter century.

    new measles update

    This week, the CDC issued a media statement announcing that as of April 24, the number of confirmed cases of measles in 2019 stands at 695, up from 626 confirmed cases as of April 19.

    This figure represents the highest number of cases since 1994, when 963 cases were reported, and is already more than the totals for all of 2016, 2017 and 2018 combined.

    The United States officially declared measles eliminated in 2000.

    Measles cases have been reported in 22 states to date, the agency noted on its website, with multiple outbreaks (defined by the CDC as three or more confirmed cases) actively occurring in California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington. Most of those outbreaks can be traced to unvaccinated travelers who brought the disease back from other countries where large measles outbreaks are occurring, such as Israel, Japan and Ukraine.

    Story Highlights

    The CDC reported this week that the number of confirmed measles cases in the United States in 2019 had reached 695.

    That figure represents the highest number of measles cases since 1994 and more than the total number of measles cases for 2016, 2017 and 2018 combined.

    The CDC and other federal agencies are stressing the importance of vaccination to stop the spread of measles and prevent further outbreaks.

    "The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States," said the CDC statement.

    The other states reporting measles cases are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Texas and Tennessee.

    Measles is among the most contagious of all infectious diseases and is spread via airborne routes or by touching an infected surface. Nine in 10 people who are not immune and who come into close contact with a patient who has measles will develop the disease, according to the CDC. 

    The agency also noted that certain patient populations are at increased risk of developing severe illness and complications from measles. They are

    • infants and children younger than 5,
    • adults older than 20,
    • pregnant women, and
    • people with compromised immune systems.

    Potential complications include permanent hearing loss, pneumonia and brain damage. The CDC estimates that about one in four people in the United States who contract measles will be hospitalized; one or two people per 1,000 will die from the disease.

    "Stopping these measles outbreaks is a priority for CDC, and we are working 24/7 to protect Americans from this contagious disease. Vaccination is the best way to protect against measles," the agency said in its statement.

    HHS Secretary Alex Azar also stressed the importance of vaccination in a related statement.

    "Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease," Azar said. "We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities.

    "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."

    Azar reminded people that National Infant Immunization Week -- now in its 25th year -- kicks off April 27 and said that HHS plans to embark on a comprehensive campaign to highlight the benefits of childhood immunizations.

    "With a safe and effective vaccine that protects against measles, the suffering we are seeing is avoidable," Azar said. "All Americans would be safer and healthier if we received measles vaccines on the recommended schedule."

    Family physicians are fully aware that vaccination is the most effective way to avoid contracting measles and spreading the disease to other people. The annual immunization schedules developed by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in conjunction with the AAFP and other groups offer recommendations for routine administration of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, as well as other childhood, adolescent and adult vaccines.