close up of the back of a child laying down in bed with the measles rash on his back

According to a new report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most recent outbreak of measles is threatening the United States’ elimination status. The CDC report states that measles has spread at a rapid clip this year: from January to March, the U.S. recorded around 30% of the total cases seen since the beginning of 2020. The rapid increase in the number of measles cases during the first quarter of 2024 “represents a renewed threat to the U.S. elimination status,” according to the CDC report.

Measles is highly contagious, and an infected person can spread the disease to up to 90% of people close to them if those contacts aren’t immune. An article from NBC News reports that from 2020 through 2023, the U.S. recorded an average of five measles cases in the first quarter of each year. Those low numbers were due, in part, to the Covid pandemic, when fewer people were interacting in person. By contrast, this year’s first-quarter tally was 97.  Additionally, the United States nearly lost that elimination status in 2019, when it recorded more than 1,200 cases — most of which were associated with outbreaks in Orthodox Jewish communities in New York. The high case load this year could put that elimination in jeopardy once again — as of April 4, the U.S. had already recorded seven outbreaks and 113 cases.

Per ABC News, the first measles vaccine was introduced in 1963 and, thanks to a yearslong and highly effective vaccination campaign, measles was considered eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, meaning the disease is no longer constantly present (though there are still occasional outbreaks.) The U.S. has been able to maintain its elimination status, despite cases popping up due to international travel and unvaccinated or under-vaccinated communities.

The CDC report calls for more widespread vaccination coverage, sharing that approximately 91% of measles cases recorded in the U.S. since January 2020 were among people who were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status. The report further states that in 2024 so far, 83% of recorded cases have been in people who were unvaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown; while half of the 2024 cases have been in children under age 5. 65 people have been hospitalized. this year, and no one has died of measles in the last four years. The report states that one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is 93% effective at preventing measles, and two doses are 97% effective, but added that the “risk for widespread U.S. measles transmission remains low because of high population immunity.”

Editorial credit: Aleksandr Finch /

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