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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.

The latest: New York's health commissioner announced Thursday morning that "there are no longer any active cases in New York State associated with the initial measles outbreak from October 2018."

  • But the commissioner added that New York health officials remain "vigilant" and are currently investigating several other new cases that are unrelated to the outbreak that just ended.
  • 1 of the new cases is a person who just returned from overseas to Rockland County, which had declared in September that its initial outbreak had officially ended. Because this new case was "imported" from someone traveling in another country, this is not considered to be part of the same outbreak.
  • Several other New York cases were reported in Nassau (2), Monroe (2) and Putnam (1) counties, according to the health commissioner.
  • Meanwhile, the CDC says 31 states reported 1,243 individual patients, 131 of whom were hospitalized and 65 of whom suffered complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis. No one died in the U.S.
"The end of the New York state measles outbreak is a credit to the great work by local and state health departments, community and religious leaders, and other partners. However, this outbreak is a grave reminder that we need heightened vigilance around measles as well as other vaccine preventable diseases, and we continue to address the myths and misinformation driving these outbreaks."
— CDC, in a statement

What they're saying: Peter Hotez, professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Axios that America's measles elimination status isn't as important as "the fact that we remain highly vulnerable" for 2 reasons.

  1. There are "at least 100 geographic pockets in the U.S. where a high percentage of kids are not being vaccinated, together with measles cases now regularly imported from Europe where measles is even more widespread," Hotez says.
  2. During the first and second quarter of next year, "we’ll again hit peak measles transmission season. [The] bottom line [is] nothing has really been done to combat the anti-vaccine movement in America, and we’re just as vulnerable to measles epidemics as we were this time last year."

What's next: The CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services are expected to have further information on the measles outbreak on Friday.

  • The Pan American Health Organization’s regional verification commission will meet in the coming months to look over the U.S. data from this year and likely 2018 to make the final determination on the U.S.' elimination status, the CDC spokesperson said.
  • PAHO declared recently that the U.K., Albania, the Czech Republic and Greece had lost their measles-free status.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
9 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.