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Could the United States Lose Its Elimination Status for Measles in Light of Ongoing Outbreaks?

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In 1978, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) targeted the elimination of measles from the U.S. by 1982. The country declared the disease eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.

Since 2018, the U.S. has experienced several outbreaks of measles linked to imported cases from other countries where outbreaks of the disease are occurring, including Israel, the Philippines, and Ukraine. From January 1 to June 13, 2019, the CDC has confirmed 1,044 cases of measles in 28 states, with the majority in unvaccinated individuals. As cases continue to be reported, is the U.S. at risk to lose its ‘eliminated’ states for measles?

According to media articles quoting officials from the CDC, the answer is yes. CDC warns that the U.S. could lose its elimination status of the disease if cases continue to be reported throughout the year. Outbreaks in New York State are the largest and longest since the elimination in 2000.

Elimination of measles is the absence of measles virus transmission in a defined geographical area (e.g. country), with active surveillance systems, for greater than or equal to 12 months. The longer the outbreaks continue, the greater the risk measles will sustain transmission in the U.S. and remove the desirable elimination status.

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Frankie Catalfumo is an epidemiologist with experiencing leading emergency preparedness and response operations in support of the federal government and international agencies relating to emerging infectious diseases and natural disasters. During his career, he has supported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense, and the Pan American Health Organization to strengthen and enhance global health security.

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