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Measles: On the Rise

Measles: On the Rise

Measles (rubeola), a highly contagious viral disease, was first documented in the 9th century. In 1912, measles became a nationally notifiable disease in the U.S, requiring healthcare providers to report all diagnosed cases. In the first decade of reporting, 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported each year. In the decade before 1963, when a vaccine became available, each year

  • 400 to 500 people died

  • 48,000 were hospitalized

  • 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain)

Current Statistics: Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including areas in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.

United States:

  • 1/1/19 - 4/26/19: 704. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000

    Update: 1/1/19 - 8/15/19: 1,203 cases in 30 states

  • In 2018, there were 372 cases of measles. This was the second-greatest number of annual cases reported since measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000

  • 2014: 667 reported cases in 2014

Rockland County, NY: 11/28/18 – 8/15/19: 296 cases

New York City: 10/18 – 8/12/19: 653 cases


  • 2016: 89,780 deaths, mostly children under the age of five

  • 2017: 110,000 deaths

Measles vaccination resulted in an 80% drop in deaths between 2000 and 2017 worldwide.


  • 2018: 82,596 cases

  • 2017: 23,927 cases

  • 2016: 5,273 cases

Measles outbreaks can occur for the following reasons:

  • An increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it into the U.S.

    U.S. and foreign air carriers transported 230.1 million passengers between the U.S. and the rest of the world between March 2017 to March 2018

  • Further spread of measles in U.S. communities with unvaccinated people

The World Health Organization has released the Top 10 Threats to Global Health:

Included in this list is Vaccine Hesitancy: the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.


  • Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes

  • It is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people around them will also become infected if they are not protected

  • The measles virus can live for up to 2 hours in the air where an infected person coughs or sneezes

  • People can become infected by breathing the contaminated air or touching a contaminated surface and then touching their faces, even though the sick person left the area more than an hour before


  • Measles starts with a fever

  • Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose, and red eyes

  • Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body


  • Pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death

  • Ear infections, bronchitis, and diarrhea


  • Healthcare providers can prevent measles with vaccines, but there is no cure for it once someone is sickened

  • The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) is the best way to protect against getting measles:

    Dose 1: recommended at age 12 months through 15 months old. (The vaccine is less effective if it is given earlier than age 12 months because the antibodies that babies may receive from their mothers may interfere with the process of making new antibodies after getting the vaccine)

    Dose 2: recommended at age 4 through 6 years

5 Facts about the Measles Vaccine:

  1. The measles vaccine is among the most effective vaccines:

    97% effective after 2 doses

    93% effective after 1 dose

  2. The MMR vaccine does not and never has contained the preservative, thimerosal

  3. Multiple studies have found no link between vaccines and autism

  4. The measles vaccine isn’t 100% free of serious side effects, but they are extremely rare.

    The chance of developing encephalitis after a dose of MMR is one in 3 million compared to one in 1,000 people that are sickened by measles

  5. If you never received the MMR vaccines but were exposed to measles, you can still get the vaccination within 72 hours of exposure. If you still develop the illness, it’s usually milder and doesn’t last as long

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