April 25, 2019
2 min read

US measles cases hit highest level since elimination declared in 2000

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Alex Azar 2019 
Alex Azar
Photo of Robert Redfield 
Robert R. Redfield

Just 4 months into 2019, the United States has seen more cases of measles than in any year since the disease was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, according to the CDC.

In total, the CDC reported 695 cases from 22 different states as of Wednesday. A large portion of the cases come from the ongoing measles outbreak in New York City.

“The United States is seeing a resurgence of measles, a disease that had once been effectively eliminated from our country,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Measles is not a harmless childhood illness but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease. We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities. Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease.”

As of Wednesday, the New York City Health Department reported that there have been 390 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since October, occurring mostly in members of the Orthodox Jewish community. The index case was an unvaccinated child who acquired measles on a trip to Israel, where there is an ongoing outbreak, the department said.

This outbreak, and a different outbreak in New York State, are among the longest lasting and largest measles outbreaks since 2000 in the U.S., according to the CDC. The New York City outbreak led to a state of emergency and a push for mandatory vaccination.

Worldwide, there have been 112,163 measles cases reported in 170 countries in 2019, according to WHO — a nearly fourfold increase from this time last year. Despite the fact that measles is almost entirely preventable through two doses of vaccination, global coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85%, whereas second-dose coverage stands at 67%, according to WHO. Vaccination coverage needs to be at 95% to prevent outbreaks.

“This current outbreak is deeply troubling and I call upon all health care providers to assure patients about the efficacy and safety of the measles vaccine,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said in a statement. “And, I encourage all Americans to adhere to CDC vaccine guidelines in order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from measles and other vaccine preventable diseases. We must work together as a nation to eliminate this disease once and for all.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin


CDC. Measles cases in the U.S. are highest since measles was eliminated in 2000. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/s0424-highest-measles-cases-since-elimination.html. Accessed April 25, 2019.
NYC Health Department. Measles. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/measles.page. Accessed April 25, 2019.
WHO. New measles surveillance data for 2019. https://www.who.int/immunization/newsroom/measles-data-2019/en/. Accessed April 16, 2019.

Disclosures: Azar and Redfield report no relevant financial disclosures.