Measles Resurgence in US Threatens Elimination Status: CDC

Key Takeaways:

– US measles elimination status, achieved in 2000, is now at risk
– Measles cases in Q1 2024 increased 17-fold compared to the first quarters of 2000 to 2023
– Measles vaccination rates among children have decreased in recent years
– External challenges such as pandemic-related disruptions to vaccination programs pose additional risk

The United States’ hard-earned status as a country that eliminated measles, achieved in 2000 following an intensive vaccination campaign, is now under threat. In a stark reversal affecting public health, the number of measles cases in 2024’s first quarter has surged 17 times over the number of cases observed during the same periods of 2000 to 2023.

Concern Over Rising Measles Cases

CDC officials are deeply concerned over the swift escalation of measles cases during 2024’s first quarter, which they consider a renewed peril to elimination. An analysis of the country’s measles cases and surveillance system, conducted by the CDC, highlights the potential jeopardy engulfing the US’s hard-fought measles elimination status accomplished two decades ago.

The definition of measles elimination is that the highly contagious virus is no longer endemic, meaning there hasn’t been continuous transmission over 12 months or more in the country, despite an effective disease monitoring system in place.

Decreased Vaccination Rates

Aggravating the situation are falling vaccination rates among young children. The coverage of measles vaccination in kindergarteners has dipped in recent years, with the vaccination ratio in the last three consecutive years dropping beneath the optimum 95 percent mark required to forestall sustained transmission.

Previously, the US saw between 3 to 4 million children annually struck by this severe infection. Following the elimination status, the annual cases had been cut back to just a handful—mostly linked to traveling abroad.

Global Measles Explosion and its Impact on the US

The risk is not solely domestic. Outside the United States, measles cases are booming due to pandemic-related interruptions in routine childhood vaccination schedules. Altogether, the current circumstances are ripe for the resurgence of measles in the US.

The CDC’s report, published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, clearly indicates the growing anxiety within the health organization. The analysis by the CDC researchers underscores the gravity of the situation and raises an alarm for necessary intervention to prevent a public health disaster.


The threat of a measles outbreak in the US strikes a blow to the progress made to date in eliminating this dangerous disease. While overcoming this challenge will require a multifaceted approach, it is imperative to prioritize maintaining high vaccination rates and robust disease surveillance to avert a return to the days when millions of American children were falling ill to measles each year.


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