US measles outbreak is largest since disease was declared eliminated in 2000

Measles cases are at their greatest number in the U.S. since the disease was declared eliminated. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.

Posted: Apr 24, 2019 2:30 PM


Measles cases in the United States have surpassed the highest number on record since the disease was declared eliminated nationwide in 2000.

Overall, there have been 681 measles cases across 22 states this year, according to CNN's analysis of data from state and local health departments.

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

As of Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 626 individual cases of measles confirmed in those 22 states. This includes illnesses reported by state health departments to the CDC through April 19 and therefore does not include cases reported since then.

The agency updates the number of measles cases each Monday.

Previously, the highest number of reported cases since elimination was 667 in 2014.

'Most of the cases that we're seeing are in unvaccinated communities'

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or if someone comes into direct contact or shares germs by touching the same objects or surfaces. Measles symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash of red spots.

Most cases in the United States have emerged in communities with low rates of vaccination against the virus, according to public health officials.

"I do believe that parents' concerns about vaccines leads to undervaccination, and most of the cases that we're seeing are in unvaccinated communities," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said in February at a congressional hearing about measles outbreaks.

Nationally, the United States has high measles vaccination coverage. The CDC says 91.5% of US children aged 19 months to 35 months received at least one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in 2017, the most recent year available.

"However, there are pockets of people who are vaccine-hesitant," Messonnier said.

"Outbreaks of measles occur when measles gets into these communities of unvaccinated people," she said. "The only way to protect against measles is to get vaccinated."

A source familiar with the measles situation in the United States previously told CNN that of the 626 cases of measles that federal officials counted as of last week, 72% are unvaccinated, and 18% have an unknown vaccination status. Among those who are unvaccinated, it may be because of personal beliefs and medical reasons. The other 10% were vaccinated with either one or two doses.

Of those 626 cases, 487 were in people 19 and younger.

Measles outbreaks -- defined as three or more cases -- have been ongoing this year in Rockland County, New York; New York City; Washington state; Santa Cruz County, California; New Jersey; Butte County, California; and Michigan.

The CDC has noted that those outbreaks are linked to travelers who were infected and brought measles back from other countries, including Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines.

For instance, the outbreak in New York, which was declared a public health emergency last month, began when an unvaccinated child became infected while visiting Israel, according to health officials.

A person from New York who was unknowingly contagious with the measles then visited Southeast Michigan, spreading the illness to at least 38 people there, according to Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The history of measles in America

In 1912, measles became a nationally notifiable disease in the United States, meaning it was required that health care providers and laboratories report diagnosed cases. In that first decade of reporting, an average of about 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported annually.

In the 1950s, researchers isolated the measles virus in a patient's blood, and in the 1960s, they were able to transform that virus into a vaccine. The vaccine was licensed and then used as part of a vaccination program.

Before the measles vaccination program was introduced in the United States in 1963, an estimated 3 million to 4 million people got the disease each year nationwide, according to the CDC. Afterward, cases and deaths from measles in the United States and other developed countries plummeted. There were 963 cases reported in the United States in 1994 and 508 in 1996.

By 2000, when there were only 86 cases, measles was declared eliminated from the United States, meaning there was no continuous transmission of the disease for more than 12 months.

Since 2000, the annual number of reported measles cases has ranged from 37 people in 2004 to 667 in 2014.

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine -- known as the MMR vaccine -- is very effective. One dose is about 93% effective at preventing measles if you come into contact with the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.

Experts recommend that children receive the vaccine in two doses: first between 12 months and 15 months of age and a second between 4 and 6 years old.

With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of reactions, according to the CDC. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but there is a "remote chance" of side effects and even serious injuries.

Experts say the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to the measles vaccine.

West Lafayette
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 71°
Kokomo
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Rensselaer
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Fowler
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 63°
Williamsport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 68°
Crawfordsville
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Frankfort
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 67°
Delphi
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 69°
Monticello
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Logansport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 68°
Turning Warmer & More Humid, Then Big Cool-Down
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 76522

Reported Deaths: 3086
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16194731
Lake7742281
Elkhart495586
Allen4040163
St. Joseph361083
Hamilton2887104
Vanderburgh205313
Hendricks1943108
Cass18069
Johnson1794119
Porter136239
Clark130750
Tippecanoe124511
Madison103066
LaPorte93530
Howard92065
Kosciusko87212
Floyd82249
Bartholomew82147
Marshall79423
Monroe76732
Delaware76052
Vigo71411
Dubois71312
Boone69746
Noble69029
Hancock68839
Jackson5975
Warrick58830
Shelby56828
LaGrange56610
Grant53130
Dearborn51628
Morgan48934
Clinton4504
Henry41820
Wayne38810
White37711
Montgomery36021
Lawrence35727
Harrison35224
Decatur34232
Putnam3218
Daviess27920
Miami2772
Scott27310
Jasper2572
Greene25434
Franklin24715
DeKalb2384
Gibson2334
Jennings22812
Steuben2153
Ripley2138
Carroll2003
Fayette1957
Perry18713
Posey1800
Starke1807
Orange17824
Wells1782
Fulton1732
Wabash1715
Jefferson1662
Knox1640
Whitley1566
Tipton14912
Washington1441
Sullivan1411
Spencer1393
Clay1315
Huntington1273
Randolph1274
Newton12110
Adams1172
Owen1051
Jay920
Rush894
Pulaski821
Fountain762
Brown752
Blackford662
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike620
Vermillion590
Parke551
Switzerland530
Martin500
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0208

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events