US Measles Cases See Big Jump in 2014

Measles infections at highest rates in 20 years as vaccinations encouraged

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Though measles has been considered eradicated in the US, that doesn't mean it is time to forget about the disease. A new report is warning that case counts have jumped in 2014.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of measles so far this year are at the highest they have been in 20 years.

Health officials are stressing the importance of vaccination and awareness of the disease.

"Check with your doctor for information on your vaccination history."

According to the authors of this new report, which was led by Paul A. Gastañaduy, MD, of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, measles was considered eliminated in the US in the year 2000, but cases are still occasionally "imported" or acquired abroad, then carried back to the US and spread.

Measles is highly contagious and can cause symptoms like fever, rash and runny nose, though more serious complications can develop. According to CDC, ear infection develops in about one out of 10 childhood cases, pneumonia develops in about one out of 20 childhood cases and death results in about one out of 1,000 childhood cases.

To determine the presence of measles so far this year, Dr. Gastañaduy and team analyzed data on measles cases across the US from January 1 through May 23, 2014. Measles cases are routinely reported to CDC by local health departments.

The researchers found that 288 confirmed cases of measles have been reported during this time. This case count is higher than any yearly total reported since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. For example, a total of 220 measles cases were reported in the US during the entire year of 2011.

The researchers also found that the case count for January to May 2014 was the highest for the January to May period since 1994 — that's a 20-year high.

Of the 288 cases seen so far this year, many (79 percent) were tied to 15 different measles outbreaks. If three or more cases are linked, the situation is considered an outbreak. Most of the cases (97 percent) were linked back to imported cases initially acquired abroad.

Of the measles patients identified in 2014, 6 percent were under 1 year old, 17 percent were between ages 1 and 4, 25 percent were between ages 5 and 19, and 52 percent were aged 20 or older.

The cases resulted in 43 hospitalizations (15 percent) and five cases of pneumonia. Zero deaths have been linked to measles in the US this year.

Eighteen different US states and New York City have reported measles cases in 2014, with most cases occurring in Ohio (138 cases), California (60 cases) and New York City (26 cases).

Dr. Gastañaduy and team noted that most of the measles cases occurred in people who were unvaccinated (200 cases) or had an unknown vaccination status (58 cases).

"The large number of cases this year emphasizes the need for health-care providers to have a heightened awareness of the potential for measles in their communities and the importance of vaccination to prevent measles," wrote Dr. Gastañaduy and team.

CDC recommends two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, first at age 12 to 15 months, then again at age 4 to 6 years.

This report was published May 29 in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
May 29, 2014
Last Updated:
May 31, 2014