Sep 9, 2019

New measles cases decline in U.S., but the outbreak isn't over yet

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

U.S. measles cases have been dropping over the past couple of weeks, with 7 cases reported the week ending Sept. 5. Only 2 of those cases were new illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday.

Why it matters: Most cases are in unvaccinated people, whose infections often originated from travelers from countries where "large measles outbreaks are occurring," CDC said. And while the numbers here have dropped, it only takes one unvaccinated group for the extremely contagious virus to establish a new foothold.

Of note: While it's "too early to say" whether the U.S. will lose "measles elimination status" — which is determined by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization — the country is facing that prospect if the outbreak that started in New York on Oct. 1 shows a chain of transmission for 12 months, CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund tells Axios.

The big picture: As of Sept. 5, there were 1,241 confirmed cases in 31 states this year. This is the largest outbreak in the U.S. in 27 years.

  • 130 patients have been hospitalized and 65 reported experiencing complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis.
  • Some U.S. infections originated in Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, but the WHO said last month they also are tracking concerning infections in other countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar.

Meanwhile, the WHO last week praised Facebook and Instagram's plan to link queries about the MMR vaccine to the WHO's website to help prevent the spread of misinformation. This follows similar efforts by Pinterest.

Go deeper

U.S. likely to retain measles elimination status — but barely

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York says it has reached a "milestone" in halting the measles outbreak that started in October 2018, and U.S. public health officials now believe the country has retained its measles elimination status — just barely meeting the year deadline, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Yes, but: Recent cases reported from returning international travelers demonstrate the danger of new outbreaks when there are still pockets of communities with low vaccination rates. Despite measles being mostly preventable, the combination of the anti-vaccination movement and vaccine hesitancy places several communities at risk.

Go deeperArrowOct 3, 2019

NY officials: Major measles outbreak is over as countdown continues

Waiting for patients at the Rockland County Health Department in April. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Health officials from Rockland County — the New York community that's been a focal point in the recent battle over measles due to its low vaccination rate — announced Wednesday that the outbreak there is over.

Why it matters: The latest measles outbreak in America is the largest since 1992, and public health officials have been concerned the U.S. could lose the "measles elimination status" it earned in 2000. But the U.S. may "scrape through just under the wire" and retain its status as long as no new cases are reported in New York state in September, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells Axios.

Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019

No new measles cases reported last week for first time since January

Measles virus. Photo: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

No new cases of measles were reported the week of Sept. 6–12 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the first time since January.

Why it matters: Despite the milestone, public health officials warn that this does not mean the outbreak is over, particularly as other countries and 2 New York counties continue efforts to stem their outbreaks. Measles is an extremely contagious disease with harmful side effects that range from possible lowered immunity to other diseases to death, though infection is largely preventable via vaccination.

Go deeper: Read Axios' full coverage of the measles outbreak here.

Keep ReadingArrowSep 16, 2019