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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Measles Hits Record Numbers As Outbreaks Continue

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

The United States has reached a record number of more than 700 measles cases in 2019, with ongoing outbreaks threatening to make the vaccine-preventable disease endemic again after it was declared eliminated in 2000.

A total of 704 cases in 22 states so far this year was announced at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) press conference on Monday, April 29. Most of the cases are occurring in unvaccinated children under 18, with the index case typically an international traveler who enters a highly susceptible community. Unfortunately, these unvaccinated populations are being persuaded by a national anti-vaccine movement that the measles-mumps-rubella shot causes autism, a myth that has been completely debunked in repeated studies. In the pre-vaccine era, measles killed some 400 to 500 children annually and caused serious but survivable conditions.

“Of the cases in 2019, 9% have been hospitalized and 3% have had pneumonia,” said Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC. “There is way to predict how bad a case of measles may be. Some children may have very mild symptoms, but others may face more serious complications like pneumonia or encephalitis.”

A large outbreak in Washington state has ended, but two huge outbreaks are continuing in New York, said Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“The outbreaks in New York City and New York state are the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000,” she said. “The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance that measles will again get a foothold in the United States.”

For more on this story see the June 2019 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.