1,001 Cases of Measles—A Preventable Tragedy

Bethesda, MD (June 5, 2019)—The following statement can be attributed to William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID):

“Today, the unthinkable has happened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 1,001 measles cases in the United States (US) this year—all preventable.

“We have had a safe and effective vaccine against measles available in the US for more than 40 years, and thanks to immunization, measles transmission had been eliminated in the US in 2000. Now, we have turned back the clock. This outbreak, which has affected 26 states and counting, is the worst outbreak we have seen in this country since 1994. Why did it happen? Because of low immunization rates. Measles still exists in other parts of the world. It is just a plane ride away and can spread throughout a community when vaccination rates are low. For every person who gets measles, 9 out of 10 of their close contacts who are not vaccinated will get it, too.

“This outbreak should never have happened. We know how to eliminate measles. All of us must work to ensure that this never happens again.”

About Measles

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can result in severe, sometimes permanent, complications including pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and even death. Measles spreads easily by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. In fact, it is so contagious that if an individual has measles, nine out of 10 of their close contacts who are not immune will also become infected. Symptoms include rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation, and fever. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

Measles can be serious:

  • About one in four people in the US who get measles will be hospitalized
  • One out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which can lead to brain damage
  • One or two out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care

Measles can be prevented by the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is recommended in the US for children, adults born in 1957 or later, international travelers, and anyone who is unsure about their vaccination status.

About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Founded in 1973, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the burden, causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases across the lifespan. Visit www.nfid.org for more information.

Contact: Diana Olson at 301-656-0003 X140