May 30, 2019 - Health

Measles cases break 25-year record in the U.S.

Data: CDC; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Measles cases today reached 971 in 26 states so far this year — eclipsing 1994's 963 cases reported for the entire year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Measles was declared "eradicated" in the U.S. in 2000, years after the development and implementation of the MMR vaccine, which is 97% effective with 2 doses. But the extremely contagious virus has crept back into American society, mainly via pockets of communities who refuse to use the vaccinations, experts have told Axios.

Context: Anti-vaccination sentiment has been fomented via misinformation — and some reports show this may be promulgated by Russians trying to affect the 2020 election.

  • Another problem, some experts say, is that the vaccine has been so effective that younger families no longer remember what it was like to have widespread measles, and they don't consider it a necessity.
  • But before widespread vaccination, around 3 to 4 million Americans got measles each year, leading to an estimated 400–500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations, per CDC.
"Outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, New York have continued for nearly 7 months.  If these outbreaks continue through summer and fall, the United States may lose its measles elimination status. That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health."
— CDC press announcement

Go deeper: Follow Axios' coverage of the ongoing measles outbreak here.

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