February 13, 2020
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US measles outbreaks cost $42 million, according to ‘conservative’ estimate

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The response to the 2019 measles outbreaks in the United States cost roughly $42 million, based on estimates outlined in a recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, although researchers said this is likely an underestimate.

“By looking at the cost to respond to incredibly contagious diseases, such as measles, we can get a better understanding of the resources necessary to prepare for another outbreak of measles or another disease, as well as get a clearer picture of the real value of public health prevention efforts,” Jamison Pike, PhD, MS, a health economist in the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told Healio. “Our review of the smaller outbreaks between 2001 and 2017 provided a framework for us to analyze the costs of much larger measles outbreaks in 2018 and 2019.”

Pike and colleagues performed a literature review, ultimately including 10 studies published between 2001 and 2018 that examined cost estimates from 11 measles outbreaks.

They determined the overall median total costs of the 11 outbreaks to be $152,308 (ranging from $9,862 to $1,063,936) — $115,102 from a public health perspective and $76,509 from a provider perspective. They additionally determined that the median cost per day was $10,710 based on chain duration and $3,873 based on investigation period. According to the study, the median cost per case was $32,805 and per contact was $223.

Pike told Healio that based on these estimates, the 2019 U.S. measles outbreaks — which included 1,282 cases, according to the CDC — cost $42 million, “an underestimate of the real cost,” Pike said.

Despite the estimates not accounting for direct medical costs and productivity losses, Pike said the findings are of “particular importance” to public health departments because of recent increases in measles activity, and because many local health departments are experiencing reductions in resources and do not have “outbreak budget reserves.”
“Measles is a deadly disease that spreads quickly from person to person, and it is completely preventable,” Pike said. “It is important for public health officials, health care providers, school systems and other community leaders to work together to prevent measles through vaccination but also prepare for the cost of a possible outbreak in their communities.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.