With the end of the New York state measles outbreak, “the United States anticipates maintaining its measles elimination status,” a statement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
There are no longer any active measles cases in New York state associated with the outbreak that began in October 2018, the New York State Department of Health said Thursday. More than 42 days have passed without any new measles cases in New York’s Sullivan and Orange counties, the statement said, and outbreaks in Rockland County and New York City also ended recently.
“The threat, however, for vaccine-preventable diseases remains and the Department is not letting down its guard,” New York state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Thursday, adding that there are responses underway in Nassau, Monroe and Putnam counties, which have measles exposures related to international travel.
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States, meaning it was no longer continuously transmitted in the country. The World Health Organization removes a country’s elimination status when measles has been spreading continuously for one year. Losing that elimination status would be a black eye on the United States, public health experts have said.
“The end of the New York state measles outbreak is a credit to the great work by local and state health departments, community and religious leaders, and other partners,” the CDC’s Thursday statement said. “However, this outbreak is a grave reminder that we need heightened vigilance around measles as well as other vaccine preventable diseases, and we continue to address the myths and misinformation driving these outbreaks. CDC continues to encourage parents to speak with their family’s healthcare provider about the importance of vaccination. We also encourage local leaders to provide accurate, scientific-based information to counter misinformation. Vaccines remain the most powerful tool to preserve health and to save lives.
The CDC reported this week that there were 1,243 cases of measles in the United States in 2019. Cases have been confirmed in 31 states. The majority of cases were among people who were not vaccinated against measles, and more than 75% of cases were linked to outbreaks in New York.
The number of cases this year marks the greatest number reported in the United States since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.