Officials Scramble To Stop Near-Record Outbreak As US Measles Cases Rise

50 years ago the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved the triple vaccine – the MMR – for Measles, Mumps and Rubella (sometimes referred to as German measles). In the year 2000 the vaccine-preventable disease of measles was declared eliminated in the US.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is concerned that the number of cases of measles and outbreaks will far exceed the total from 2014 when 667 cases were reported. We are only in the fourth month of 2019 and already 626 cases of measles have been reported to the CDC.

There are 22 states that have reported measles cases so far and they are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

Travel has played a large influence in the spread of measles cases as travelers to countries that have experienced large outbreaks such as Israel, the Ukraine and the Philippines have returned unaware that they were infected with the disease.

An outbreak is considered by the CDC as three or more cases. Outbreaks have occurred in New York City, California, New Jersey and Michigan.  The 43 cases in Michigan are linked to just one man traveling to Detroit who was from Brooklyn, NY unaware that he had the measles.

Reports are coming into the CDC that most measles cases are among those who have never received the MMR vaccine.  For instance in Washington state, of the 74 people thus far who have come down with the measles, 63 were unvaccinated.  

The incubation period for the measles is 21 days, but it takes 42 days or two incubation periods, of going without new cases for the CDC to declare the outbreak in Washington over if no more cases are reported by Wednesday of this week.

Because of the rise in measles cases the FDA stressed today the importance of the MMR vaccine. It says that the MMR has been shown by overwhelming scientific evidence to be the safest and most effective intervention for both the protection of public health and the prevention of individual illness. The FDA also reiterates that there is no connection between the vaccine and the development of autism which has been a claim for 20 years by anti-vaccine groups.