Sep 25, 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.

How it works: The World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization automatically rescind a country's elimination status if there's been an outbreak in an area for 12 months.

  • As long as no new cases are reported in Orange County, New York, before the Oct. 1 deadline, the U.S. should be able to retain its status, a CDC spokesperson tells Axios. The county last reported a measles case Aug. 19, and there needs to be 42 days before the outbreak is considered over.
  • Per CDC, the outbreak was declared done in New York City on Sept. 3, in El Paso, Texas, on Sept. 12, and in Wyoming County, New York, on Sept. 19.
  • The CDC says 1,241 cases were confirmed in 31 states between Jan. 1 and Sept. 19.

The latest: Rockland County officials announced Wednesday that "measles is over" in the county.

  • The county imposed strict rules and fines and began an education campaign to address the problem. This included the requirement of 2 MMR vaccines for all staff and campers for summer camps in the county. There were no measles infections reported in those campers, county health commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said.
  • Ruppert said the high rate of unvaccinated people in the county was partially due to anti-vaxers who refused to participate, but added that the majority were those who were vaccine hesitant and trying to "create their own schedule."
  • "It's essential all children are vaccinated on time," Ruppert said.
  • The first measles case in Rockland was identified on Oct. 1, 2018, with the last rash onset from measles identified on Aug. 13.

But, but, but: Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios the vaccination rate in the U.S. is roughly 91%–92% nationwide but needs to be 93%–95% to get the "herd immunization" to prevent an outbreak.

  • The main concern is in communities where there's 70%–80% immunization, he says, plus the continued, active anti-vaccination movement.
"Are we out of the woods? No. Because we still have gaps in our immunization rates, particularly in certain groups. It's dramatically decreased, but you know you are [definitely] out of the woods when you don't have any cases."
— Anthony Fauci

Go deeper:

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

Health officials urge Americans to get flu shots before November

Alex Azar (center) receives his flu shot just beflore Redskins legend Mark Way during a press conference. Photo courtesy of NFID

Public health officials on Thursday urged Americans to get their seasonal flu vaccine early this year, in case the U.S. follows Australia's season in which the virus hit many people early.

Why it matters: While public health officials admit the vaccine is not 100% effective, there's growing research showing that the vaccine reduces the severe and sometimes deadly complications from the disease and can protect newborns if the mother receives the vaccine while pregnant.

Go deeperArrowSep 26, 2019

Los Angeles County bans flavored tobacco

A vaping store in Los Angeles County. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, and urged California Gov. Gavin Newsom to enact a statewide vaping ban, per City News Service via L.A. Times.

The big picture: Local and state authorities are banning vaping products across the country as the Trump administration prepares a federal ban on most flavored e-cigarettes. There have been 16 vaping-related deaths so far, and at least 805 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury.

Go deeperArrowOct 2, 2019