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CDC Warns US Could Lose Measles Elimination Status

MAY 30, 2019 | MICHAELA FLEMING
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that 971 cases of measles have been reported thus far in 2019. This figure marks the greatest number of cases in a given year since 1994, which saw 963 cases for the whole year.

With these new case counts, the CDC warns that it is possible that the United States may lose its measles elimination status in the summer or fall.  

“Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated. Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, in a statement.

Measles cases have been reported in half of the states, with outbreaks ongoing from coast-to-coast. The largest outbreaks are isolated within the state of New York. New York City has documented 550 confirmed cases and Rockland County, New York has documented 254; these 2 outbreaks alone make up 804 cases.

According to the CDC, the loss of measles elimination status would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by public health officials throughout the country.

With misinformation fueling outbreaks, particularly those in New York, the CDC also recommends that parents of young children to consult with their health care providers about vaccines and that local health leaders take the time to provide accurate information to combat misinformation.

Contagion®, a New Jersey-based publication, recently invited 2 health experts from the state to partake in an Insights series on measles outbreaks and the role of public health. In the series, Glenn Fennelly, MD, MPH, professor and chair of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a pediatric infectious disease specialist, and Christina (Tina) Tan, MD, MPH, a state epidemiologist and an assistant commissioner with the New Jersey Department of Health, discussed a number of topics including epidemiology, aversion to vaccinations, and future prevention and management.

“We have to remember that 1 of the big messages that we have to get out there is that there isn’t any evidence that shows vaccines have long-term impact or adverse effects on people,” Tan said in a recent segment. “But you do run the risk of impacting your life with a vaccine-preventable disease. If you’re not vaccinated, you could have long-term sequelae related to, say, encephalitis or related to measles that will last you a lifetime.”

Both Tan and Fennelly endorsed the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics websites as resources that provide evidence-based strategies of how to have conversations with parents about the importance of vaccination.

“Public health wants to help providers as well because we know from a lot of research on examining attitudes toward vaccines that parents will always say having that recommendation from the providers is the No 1 source of trusted information, and that’s what influences parents to vaccinate,” Tan added.

The CDC also reminds the public that everyone aged 6 months and older should be vaccinated against the measles before traveling internationally. Infants 6 to 11 months old should receive 1 dose of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine prior to travel and everyone over the age of 12 months should receive 2 doses. 

Contagion® will continue to monitor the outbreaks and cases in the United States provide updates as they become available.

Case counts for the current outbreaks are available on the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.
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