Global Measles Outbreaks

Top 10 Countries with Global Measles Outbreaks*
Rank Country Number of Cases
1 Nigeria 5,300
2 Pakistan 4,868
3 India** 1,865
4 Niger 1,583
5 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,495
6 Burkina Faso 1,243
7 Afghanistan 1,129
8 Bangladesh 917
9 United Republic of Tanzania 902
10 Côte d’Ivoire 888

Provisional data based on monthly data reported to WHO (Geneva) as of early July 2021. Data covers December 2020 – May 2021.

* Countries with highest number of cases for the period – **WHO classifies all suspected measles cases reported from India as measles clinically compatible if a specimen was not collected as per the algorithm for classification of suspected measles in the WHO VPD Surveillance Standards.  Thus numbers might be different between what WHO reports and what India reports.

An outbreak means more disease than expected.

Measles is extremely contagious. Around 9 out of 10 people who are not protected will become infected following exposure to the measles virus. Measles outbreaks are declared when the number of cases reported in an area is higher than the expected number of cases.

COVID-19 is increasing the risk of measles outbreaks.

Almost 41 countries have already put off, or may put off, their measles campaigns for 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This increases the risk of bigger outbreaks around the world, including the United States.

Measles can come to the United States from anywhere in the world.

Outbreaks can happen in areas where people may be unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, including the United States. Right now, measles outbreaks are occurring in every region of the world. Measles can enter the United States through infected travelers entering or travelling through to the U.S. as well as through infected U.S. travelers returning from other countries.

Although measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, almost 1,300 cases of measles were reported in 31 states in the U.S. in 2019— the greatest number since 1992. The 2019 U.S. measles outbreaks were all linked to travel-related cases that reached at-risk populations (un or under vaccinated against measles) in the United States.

CDC works with partners to fight global measles outbreaks.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staff in Atlanta and around the world work with partners and ministries of health to prevent, detect, and stop global measles outbreaks. CDC provides technical support to countries and partners to:

  • Find measles quickly to stop outbreaks
  • Analyze data and information to support decision-making
  • Plan and implement outbreak response immunization campaigns
  • Help find and move resources to where they are most needed
  • Run laboratory analysis

CDC focuses on countries with large measles outbreaks and countries with weak health systems, low immunization rates or gaps in coverage that make it more likely for outbreaks to spread, cross borders and possibly enter the U.S.

For more on CDC’s work to respond to measles outbreaks where they start and reduce the burden of death, disease and economic disruptions, see Why CDC is Involved in Global Measles and Rubella.

Page last reviewed: March 17, 2021
Content source: Global Immunization