The Latest Measles Numbers Are Historic

May 18, 2019 Rene F. Najera

A report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report presents evidence that the cases of measles in the United States in 2019 are historic. Not since 1994 has measles infected so many people in the country. Even more concerning is that measles was declared eliminated in 2000 in the United States.

The report indicates that:

“During January 1–April 26, 2019, a total of 704 cases were reported, the highest number of cases reported since 1994. Outbreaks in close-knit communities accounted for 88% of all cases. Of 44 cases directly imported from other countries, 34 were in U.S. residents traveling internationally; most were not vaccinated.”

The highest number of cases were concentrated in New York and Washington states, with cases reported in several other states:

measles map may 2019

When counting cases by week, there is a surge of cases in March, but we need to keep in mind that the outbreak in Washington began last year and contributed to 2018 being a record year in the number of cases reported since elimination.

measles by week grap

When it comes to immunization status for the cases, 71% were not vaccinated, 18% have an unknown vaccination status, and 11% were known to be at least partially vaccinated. Perhaps more important is the immunization status of the cases believed to have imported measles: 91% not vaccinated and 9% vaccinated. This highlights the importance of being up-to-date on immunizations before traveling overseas.

In 2014, a total of 667 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number was the highest post-elimination up until this year. In the first four months of 2019, the number of reported cases has surpassed 800. On average, one death is reported for every 1,000 measles cases. With severe complications already being reported during this outbreak, we might be — quite regrettably — marching toward the first reported death soon.