We Eradicated Measles— but They're Still a Threat

US has seen 3x more cases than usual this year

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 6, 2013 12:26 PM CST

(Newser) – Measles was indeed "eliminated" in the US from 2000 through 2011, per a review of data through that year published in JAMA Pediatrics yesterday. But there's a "but": As CBS News reports, America isn't actually measles-free. Elimination is defined as the "absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months" (USA Today translates: That means it's not circulating among the general population), but the US still sees about 60 cases a year.

This year, however, we've logged at least 175, reports the CDC, and they're almost all tied to people who picked up the infection abroad and brought it home. And according to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, all but about 2% of the patients were unvaccinated, reports USA Today. "This isn't the failure of a vaccine; it's the failure to vaccinate," he says. This could end up being the worst year for measles since 1996.

In this photo from Thursday, April 25, 2013, Lucy Butler,15, gets ready to have her measles jab.
In this photo from Thursday, April 25, 2013, Lucy Butler,15, gets ready to have her measles jab.   (AP Photo/Owen Humphreys, PA)
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