Jul 23, 2019 - Health

Measles in U.S. creeps back toward endemic status

Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday confirmed another 25 cases of measles last week, with Ohio and Alaska now reporting their first 2019 infections.

Why it matters: America is continuing its trek toward losing the "measles elimination status" it's had since 2000, with the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992.

”The loss of elimination status would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health," CDC spokesperson Jason McDonald tells Axios. "The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1966 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task."

What's happening: New York City reported its first measles case for the current outbreak on Sept. 30, 2018. Because it takes a 42-day period of no new cases before an outbreak is considered extinguished, public health officials hope to stem this outbreak by Aug. 19.

  • Good news: New cases in New York City and state have both dropped after strong public health measures were taken, including revoking non-medical exemptions for MMR vaccinations. In NYC, only one case was confirmed between July 1 and 15.
  • Bad news: New states are recording individual cases, including Ohio and Alaska last week — and the highly contagious virus requires a high vaccination rate in the community to halt its spread. The total number of states with at least one confirmed case of measles in 2019 is now 30.

Background: Measles is considered to be endemic to the nation if there's been continuous transmission of the same genotype of measles for 12 months or more, McDonald says.

Flashback: "Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations," McDonald says.

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