As of April 24, 2019, CDC is reporting 695 cases of measles from 22 states. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated from this country in 2000.
The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks – one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018. The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States.
The recent outbreaks started through importation. Measles is imported when an unvaccinated traveler visits a country where there is widespread measles transmission, gets infected with measles, and returns to the United States and exposes people in a community who are not vaccinated. When measles is imported into a community with a highly vaccinated population, outbreaks either don’t happen or are usually small. However, once measles is in an under-vaccinated community, it becomes difficult to control the spread of the disease.
A significant factor contributing to the outbreaks in New York is misinformation in the communities about the safety of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine. Some organizations are deliberately targeting these communities with inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines. CDC continues to encourage parents to speak to their family’s healthcare provider about the importance of vaccination. CDC also encourages local leaders to provide accurate, scientific-based information to counter misinformation.
Vaccination is the best way to protect against measles. Today, the overwhelming majority of parents choose to protect their children with vaccines, and we’ve seen high and stable immunization rates in the U.S. for several years.