Measles is on the rise, and it’s making the news. But unlike some diseases, measles is preventable.
The increase in cases being discovered in the United States is attributed to 1) an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it into the U.S., and 2) further spread of measles in U.S. communities in pockets of unvaccinated people.
As of January 25, there have been nine measles cases reported in four states this year: Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In 2023, there were 58 total cases reported in 19 states and Washington, D.C.
“Measles only becomes a problem in communities which are not highly vaccinated against the disease,” says Dr. Joshua Meyerson, Health Department of Northwest Michigan Medical Director. “We are reminding residents to take advantage of this safe and effective vaccine. Getting two doses provides 97% protection against measles for life.”
The measles vaccine, often called MMR because it also protects against rubella and mumps, provides significant protection again all strains of measles and greatly reduces the risk of complications. Since widespread use of the vaccine in the U.S., the number of people with measles has decreased by more than 99%. The MMR Vaccine is routinely recommended for all children starting after age one with a second dose given when they’re 4-6 years old.
Facts About Measles
- Causes a red, blotchy rash, fever, dry cough, inflamed eyes, and more.
- Is primarily a childhood disease caused by a virus but can infect adults too.
- Spreads easily when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- Can almost always be prevented with a vaccine.
- Can be serious and even fatal for small children.
- Kills more than 200,000 a year, mostly children.
Vaccine hesitancy is responsible for measles outbreaks in countries where measles had previously been eliminated and is one of the 10 threats to global public health identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to the National Library of Medicine.
“Vaccine hesitancy increased during COVID-19, but regardless of how people feel about the COVID-19 vaccine, we cannot afford to discount the benefits of long-proven vaccines like MMR,” says Dr. Meyerson. “Let’s keep ourselves and our neighbors safe from preventable disease.”