Measles is a highly contagious disease. It can be serious for young children. Protect your child by making sure he or she is up to date on vaccinations, including before traveling abroad.
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. 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. Measles can be serious for young children. It can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death.
How Measles Spreads — 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 him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.
People in the United States still get measles, but it’s not very common. That’s because most people in this country are protected against measles through vaccination. However, since measles is still common in parts of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa, measles is brought into the United States by people who get infected while they are abroad. Your child’s doctor may offer the MMRV vaccine, a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella(chickenpox).
Measles Cases — From January 1 to January 30, 2015, 102 people from 14 states were reported to have measles. Most of these cases are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. On January 23, 2015, CDC issued a Health Advisory to notify public health departments and healthcare facilities about this multi-state outbreak and to provide guidance for healthcare providers nationwide.
The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 644 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). This is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.
Measles can be prevented with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. In the United States, widespread use of measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99% reduction in measles cases compared with the pre-vaccine era. Since 2000, when measles was declared eliminated from the U.S., the annual number of people reported to have measles ranged from a low of 37 people in 2004 to a high of 644 people in 2014. Most of these originated outside the country or were linked to a case that originated outside the coutntry.
Measles is still common in other countries. The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly in areas where people are not vaccinated. Worldwide, an estimated 20 million people get measles and 146,000 people die from the disease each year—that equals about 440 deaths every day or about 17 deaths every hour. (www.cdc.gov)
Q: Has measles been eliminated from the United States?
A: Yes. In 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country. The United States was able to eliminate measles because it has a highly effective measles vaccine, a strong vaccination program that achieves high vaccine coverage in children and a strong public health system for detecting and responding to measles cases and outbreaks.
Q: What does “measles elimination” mean?
A: Measles elimination is defined as the absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area. Measles is no longer endemic (constantly present) in the United States.
Q: If measles is eliminated, why do people still get it in the United States?
A: Every year, measles is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers (Americans or foreign visitors) who get measles while they are in other countries. They can spread measles to other people who are not protected against measles, which sometimes leads to outbreaks. This can occur in communities with unvaccinated people.
Most people in the United States are protected against measles through vaccination, so measles cases in the U.S. are uncommon compared to the number of cases before a vaccine was available. Since 2000, when measles was declared eliminated from the U.S., the annual number of people reported to have measles ranged from a low of 37 people in 2004 to a high of 644 people in 2014.
Q: Where do cases of measles that are brought into the United States come from?
A: Measles can be brought into the United States from any country where the disease still occurs or where outbreaks are occurring including Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. In recent years, many measles cases have been brought into the United States from common U.S. travel destinations, such as England, France, Germany, India, and, during 2014, from the Philippines and Vietnam.