CDC: Record-Breaking Year For Measles Due To Travel, Non-Vaccinated Residents

Back of female with measles/ Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images/flickr

Back of female with measles/ Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images/flickr

Measles, one of the most contagious diseases in the world, was officially eliminated from the U.S. in the year 2000.

Nevertheless, we’re in the midst of a record-breaking year for measles in this country, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 288 confirmed cases so far.

There are two main reasons for the spike, said Anne Schuchat, M.D. (RADM, USPHS) assistant surgeon general, United States Public Health Service and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, speaking at a telebriefing for reporters today.

First, she said, travelers are importing measles into the U.S. from other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific, notably the Philippines, which has been experiencing a large measles outbreak. In addition, Schuchat said, the imported measles is spreading within communities of non-vaccinated people.

CDC: It's a record-breaking year for measles

CDC: It’s a record-breaking year for measles

From the agency’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report:

Most of the 288 measles cases reported this year have been in persons who were unvaccinated (69%) or who had an unknown vaccination status (20%); 30 (10%) were in persons who were vaccinated. Among the 195 U.S. residents who had measles and were unvaccinated, 165 (85%) declined vaccination because of religious, philosophical, or personal objections, 11 (6%) were missed opportunities for vaccination, and 10 (5%) were too young to receive vaccination.

When asked if the non-vaccinated U.S. residents who contracted measles had declined shots due to widely discredited information linking autism to the MMR vaccine, Schuchat said no, public health officials don’t believe that to be true.

Her bottom line message was clear, however: “This year we are breaking records for measles,” Schuchat said. “And it’s a wake up call. Measles may be forgotten but it’s not gone.” (She also added that if you don’t know whether you’ve had measles or the vaccine, it’s OK to get another MMR shot, unless it’s contraindicated, for instance, if you’re immunosuppressed or pregnant.)

Here’s more from the CDC:

A total of 288 confirmed measles cases have been reported to CDC, surpassing the highest reported yearly total of measles cases since elimination (220 cases reported in 2011) Fifteen outbreaks accounted for 79% of cases reported, including the largest outbreak reported in the United States since elimination (138 cases and ongoing).

The large number of cases this year emphasizes the need for health-care providers to have a heightened awareness of the potential for measles in their communities and the importance of vaccination to prevent measles.

Locally, Anne Roach, with the Massachusetts Department of Health, says there have been 8 confirmed cases of measles among state residents so far this year.

And more from the agency news release:

“The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Schuchat..“Many of the clusters in the U.S. began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013.”

Of the 288 cases, 280 (97 percent) were associated with importations from at least 18 countries. More than one in seven cases has led to hospitalization. Ninety percent of all measles cases in the United States were in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown. Among the U.S. residents who were not vaccinated, 85 percent were religious, philosophical or personal reasons.

The large number of measles cases this year stresses the importance of vaccination. Healthcare providers should use every patient encounter to ensure that all their patients are up to date on vaccinations; especially, before international travel.
More than ever health care providers need to be alert to the possibility of measles and be familiar with the signs and symptoms so they can detect cases early.

“Many U.S. health care providers have never seen or treated a patient with measles because of the nation’s robust vaccination efforts and our rapid response to outbreaks,” said Schuchat.

Patients who present with fever and rash along with cough, runny nose, or pink eye should be evaluated for measles; especially, if the patient is unvaccinated and recently traveled internationally or was exposed to someone else who has measles or recently traveled. If healthcare providers suspect a patient with measles, they should immediately isolate the patient to help prevent the disease from spreading, immediately report the case to their local health department and collect specimens for serology and viral testing.

Timely vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. Infants and young children are at high risk of getting a serious case of measles. CDC recommends two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for everyone starting at age 12 months. For those travelling internationally, CDC recommends that all U.S. residents older than 6 months receive MMR vaccine, if needed, prior to departure.

Measles is a serious respiratory disease that is highly contagious. Anyone who is not protected against the disease is at risk, especially if they travel internationally. Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Worldwide, an estimated 20 million people get measles and 122,000 die from the disease each year.

Here’s more info from the CDC on measles and the current outbreak and guidance for travelers.

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  • LauraCondon

    All fully recovered. No one died. Now all have permanent, natural immunity. Too bad they didn’t develop this natural immunity as children. And how many more who got exposed developed permanent natural immunity without getting sick…it’s how natural immunity works.

  • Michael

    The math to me is very scary. Could anyone please pinpoint what is wrong with my math: if 10% of people who got the Measles were vaccinated and there are more than 90% in the population who are vaccinated, why does not this mean that the vaccine is completely ineffective (to say it mildly in order not to start an outcry)?

    BTW, for the record, I am vaccinated, all my family members are vaccinated, and my advice to all; get vaccinated… But the question remains.

    • wallyeast

      What is wrong with your math is that you don’t know how many vaccinated people were exposed but didn’t get contract it.

  • Benno Walle

    Someone is trying to sell vaccine and make a big deal out of a few (288) cases and calling it an outbreak. 288 out of a US population of 313.9 million (2012). By the way, I am not against vaccinating against measles, but just remember that 30 (10%) of the cases who got measles were in persons who were vaccinated.

    We have 50,000 new cases of HIV every year and that could be easily prevented.

    • jack S

      it only takes one to start an epidemic.

  • Ol’ Bob

    Ah,the joy of hubris. The in-effing-effable pride that some take in ignoring simple, basic, safe ways to prevent contagious disease. The smug pleasure they get to enjoy by saying to themselves and others, “Them scientists an’ doctors – they ain’t so smart…”. Our kids, every last one of ‘em straight-A students, have had every vaccination known to mankind. No brain damage. No autism. Just healthy, smart kids that don’t have to worry about these diseases, just as their parents didn’t. If some of our acquaintances kids come down with something preventable – well, I hope they’re still smugly happy…

  • Vito Alexander Pavlovic

    Do some research, the vaccine is a failure, if you want it mandatory, go ahead and inject yourself with it, I am not interested in getting vaccine injured or any of my family members, if vaccines were safe there would be no need for a vaccine court, so unless you and others like you guarantee the safety of vaccines, stay out of other peoples business.

    • belladonna_16

      Measles was eliminated from the US until self-obsessed, anti-science ignoramuses decided to stop getting vaccinated. Vaccines are the total opposite of a failure.

    • cj

      Unfortunately it is actions like that that caused children too young to get the vaccines to get infected. The majority (if not all) of these cases were people who declined vaccination. Then they spread life threatening diseases to others. Vaccines are safe. Do your research.

    • Benjamin Ashraf

      Only 10% of the cases were in those who were vaccinated. So how is this a failure when the majority of the cases are in those with no vaccine history? I think you should check your facts before making statements with no credibility. Furthermore the MMR is one of the most studied vaccines, with regards to safety. And while serious vaccine reactions occur in extremely rare cases, the benefits of the vaccine in preventing both the diseases and the their associated complications, far outweigh them.

  • Neil Blanchard

    This is the tragic result of fraudulent studies, that mislead too many people into thinking that vaccines are risky.

    We may well need to make vaccines mandatory? We need to really get past this people! Vaccines are critical to everyone’s health.

    • Benno Walle

      Excuse me Neil Blanchard, but which planet have you just arrived from? “We may well need to make vaccines mandatory?” ??? Do you know how many people in America die of gun shots every year? Totally preventable! And yet we are not making gun control mandatory. We don’t make it mandatory for guys to use a condom when they have sex and tenth of thousands get infected with HIV every year. About 50,000 a year in recent years plus countless other STDs.

      We are only talking about 288 people who got sick with measles out of a US population of 313.9 million (2012). Making anything mandatory doesn’t seem to work in the US, just look at the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) which was supposed to be beneficial to All Americans and look what a mess the politicians created. It could be a wonderful program and works well in most civilized (industrialized) countries.

      One would think that vaccinating children in Kindergarten or early school years would be something simple to do, but not in the USA. You can vaccinate military personnel but that is because they are government property. We love Freedom here more than anything else and sometimes to our own detriment.

      I hope you don’t feel that I attacked you, it wasn’t meant that way.

      • Neil Blanchard

        Crowd protection is why. The Flu Pandemic of 1918 is why.

        We forget how devastating mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tuberculosis, whooping cough, scarlet fever, etc. can be *because* we have kept them largely in check with vaccinations or antibiotics.

        Now we have drug resistant diseases, and growing pockets of unvaccinated people – and it could get exponentially worse. That’s why.

    • jack S

      Vaccines are close to mandatory. no vaccine, no public school and no college.