Measles outbreaks continue to grow in US, Europe

Baby with measles
Baby with measles


A large measles outbreak in Ukraine has infected more than 25,000 people and is connected to growing outbreaks in Europe and the record-setting one in the United States.

Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released new measles updates today. The CDC recorded 60 new cases of measles last week, raising 2019's total to 764, the highest number seen since 1994.

Meanwhile, the first 2 months of 2019 saw 34,300 measles cases reported in 42 countries of the WHO European Region, including 13 measles-related deaths in Albania, Romania, and Ukraine. Ukraine's more than 25,000 cases account for more than 75% of the European total.

"Although the European Region achieved its highest ever estimated coverage for the second dose of measles vaccination in 2017 (90%)," the WHO said, "countries with measles outbreaks have experienced a range of challenges in recent years including a decline or stagnation in overall routine immunization coverage in some cases, low coverage at subnational level or among some marginalized groups and immunity gaps in older populations."

In both the United States and Europe, most cases are occurring in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated patients. The CDC said most US outbreaks (defined as three or more related cases) have been tied to ongoing outbreaks in Ukraine, Israel, and the Philippines.

New US cases in California, Georgia

The CDC today highlighted nine ongoing outbreaks this week, the same number it did last week. Those in New York City (423 cases) and Rockland County, New York (215) account for the lion's share of US cases so far this year.

Among the 60 new cases recorded in the US this past week are 3 cases in Georgia, which, along with 3 cases reported in January, represent the first measles cases reported in that state since 2015. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the three cases occurred in the same family, and none of the patients were vaccinated.

California health officials confirmed the first case of measles in Long Beach City since 2015, as well as two cases in Orange County. According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the patients in Orange County is a baby under the age of 1 who was too young to be vaccinated. Typically children get the first dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at ages 12 to 15 months.

The other case-patient in Long Beach is a UC Irvine student who visited several public places before being diagnosed as having measles.

Current California measles outbreaks are in Butte County, Los Angeles County, and Sacramento County. According to the California Department of Public Health, the four outbreaks recorded this year in the state have been linked to international travel.

European measles cases rose in 2018

The WHO said the European Region reported a total of 83,540 measles cases and 74 related deaths in all of 2018, a dramatic spike from 2017's total of 25,869 cases and 42 deaths, and the 5,273 cases and 13 deaths recorded in 2016.

At the current clip, however, the continent would top 200,000 cases this year.

Last year, Ukraine reported 53,218 cases. Measles is endemic in 10 countries in the European Region—Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine—the WHO said.

See also:

May 6 CDC update

May 6 WHO update

Apr 25 Atlanta Journal Constitution story

May 5 Los Angeles Times story

George Department of Public Health measles page

California Department of Public Health measles page

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