Global Measles Outbreaks

Measles cases are increasing. Provisional data from the World Health Organizationexternal icon (WHO) indicates that during the first six months of the year there have been more measles cases reported worldwide than in any year since 2006. From January 1 – July 31, 2019, 182 countries reported 364,808 measles cases to the WHO. This surpasses the 129,239 reported during the same time period in 2018. WHO Regions with the biggest increases in cases include the African Region (900%), the Western Pacific Region (230%) and the European Region (150%).

Measles is everywhere. All WHO regions are experiencing large, often extended outbreaks of the disease. Multiple countries have declared outbreaks. Outbreaks are declared when the number of cases reported in an area exceeds the expected number of cases. As the expected number is specific to the individual country. Outbreaks can range from a few cases in areas where the disease has previously been eliminated to a large number where endemic transmission is ongoing. The risk of measles virus transmission spreading to affect multiple communities within a country or across international borders is especially concerning. As long as measles is a threat anywhere, it is a threat everywhere.

Measles is extremely contagious. Around 9 out of 10 people who are not protected will become infected following exposure to the measles virus.

Measles can be very serious. In 2017, measles caused an estimated 110,000 deaths. Possible complications include encephalitis (swelling of the brain), pneumonia, severe diarrhea and dehydration, and/or permanent disability. In developing countries, approximately 1 of every 100 children with measles will die from the disease or its complications.

Measles is preventable. Because of vaccination, more than 21 million lives have been saved and measles deaths have been reduced by 80% since 2000. Additional work is required to ensure high levels of vaccination coverage in all areas. Without urgent efforts to address gaps in coverage, outbreaks like the ones occurring now will continue to occur.

What is CDC Doing

In coordination with partners including the Measles & Rubella Initiativeexternal icon and Gavi, CDC provides the following services

  • Guidance about measles and rubella elimination strategies across the globe
  • Strengthening systems to deliver 2 doses of measles and rubella containing vaccines for all children
  • Supporting supplemental immunization campaigns to immunize children not reached by the routine immunization system
  • Support for outbreak investigations
  • Surveillance and specialized laboratory testing
  • Reviews of immunization programs

Supporting Global Health Security

Diseases do not respect international borders. Diseases travel as easily as people and products. CDC protects Americans and people around the world from vaccine preventable disease, disability and death. Learn more about CDC’s role in Global Health Security.

Page last reviewed: January 9, 2020
Content source: Global Health