Measles Outbreak Questions and Answers: Everything You Want to Know

child's hand with measles. Photo iStock
February 20, 2019

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but scattered outbreaks have occurred in recent years. This year there have been five — in New York, Texas, and Washington State — for a total of more than 120 cases. Here’s what you need to know about the disease and the risk of getting it.

The United States is experiencing the worst measles outbreak in decades. Federal health officials said on Thursday that 971 individual cases have been confirmed in 26 states so far in 2019, surpassing the total recorded in 1994, when the last large epidemic occurred.

The disease was declared eliminated in the country in 2000. But if the outbreaks in New York City and suburban Rockland County, N.Y., continue through the summer and fall, health officials said, the United States may again be a country where measles is endemic. Before measles vaccination became common, there were up to 4 million cases of measles each year nationwide.

The growing number of cases now reflects the rise of misinformation spread by opponents of vaccination in the United States, as well as an increase in international outbreaks that have infected American travelers.

New York has been particularly hard hit, with outbreaks centered in suburban Rockland County and in Brooklyn. But measles continues to spread in at least eight other communities in states like California, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Here’s what you need to know about the disease and the risk of getting it. Read more