Global Measles Outbreaks

Children in Aden, Yemen show off the spots where they received their Measles and Rubella vaccinations. -  Image Courtesy of UNICEF

Children in Aden, Yemen show off the spots where they received their Measles and Rubella vaccinations.

Image Courtesy of UNICEF

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.

Number of Measles Cases Reported to WHO (January-June 2019)

Number of Reported Measles Cases(6M period)

Latest Outbreak Information by Region and Country

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

  • As of August 6, 2019, there were more than 140,000 suspected cases and more than 2,600 deaths reported in 2019.
  • DRC’s case count for 2019 far surpasses the 67,072 cases identified in 2018 and exceeds the total reported for all of 2011 when DRC experienced their last major outbreak
  • The government with the help of partners has been implementing localized outbreak response measures including case management and mass vaccination in the affected provinces since mid-2018. Outbreak response activities have targeted 63 health zones with more than 2 million children ages 6 to 59 months vaccinated to date.


  • As of August 7, 2019, more than 127,000-suspected cases of measles were reported in 2019. More than 19,000 cases have been recorded as complicated measles cases requiring additional medical care.
  • The age group most affected are children ages 9 months to 9 years old.
  • The third round of the three-phase vaccination campaign took place from March 25 to April 5, 2019. Preliminary data reports that more than 3.9 million children 6 months to 9 years of age were vaccinated. A decreased trend in suspect cases has been seen in recent weeks.


  • As of June 14, 2019, more than 38,000-suspected cases of measles and 125 deaths have been reported from across 715 local government areas in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
  • Supplemental immunization activities have been completed in Borno State and strengthened surveillance activities are planned in all areas with cases as part of the response.
  • Nigeria’s Emergency Operations Center was activated in March 2019 to respond to the outbreak and coordinate the multi-sector response that includes rapid response teams being deployed to highly affected states.

South America

  • As of July 27, 2019, PAHO reported 1,125 confirmed cases of measles in South America in 2019. Argentina (five confirmed cases), Brazil (647 confirmed cases), Chile (5 confirmed cases), Colombia (125 confirmed cases), Peru (2 confirmed cases) Uruguay (9 confirmed cases) and Venezuela (332 confirmed cases) remain the most affected. While some of these cases link back to the Venezuela outbreak, new importations have also been documented and have contributed to the increase in cases.
  • The outbreak that started in Venezuela in 2017 continues in 2019 in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. Nine other countries have reported cases related to separate importations of measles virus. There have also been new importations of measles virus to Brazil and Colombia.
  • Efforts are ongoing in all of the countries to increase coverage with two doses of measles containing vaccine. Measles cases from all sources have decreased in 2019 compared to 2018.

United States


  • As of July 30, 2019, 981 cases of measles have been reported between January and June 2019.
  • Case numbers in 2019 are on track to be lower than in 2018 when more than 3,100 cases were reported.


  • As of July 29, 2019, 56,594 cases of measles and 17 deaths have been reported. Ukraine has already surpassed the 54,000 cases reported in 2018.
  • Since the beginning of the outbreak in 2017, more than 115,000 cases have been reported. The prolonged nature of the outbreak has been linked to a fall in measles vaccination coverage that reached 31% in 2016.
  • Outbreak immunization activities have been implemented in Lviv and Vinnytsya. Additional immunization campaigns are planned in the Khmelnytsky Region.

The Philippines

  • As of the end of June 2019, more than 2,900 confirmed cases of measles (more than 36,000-suspected cases) were reported from all 17 regions of the country. Suspected and confirmed measles cases reported in 2018 were 18,414.
  • About half of all cases have been in children under 5 years of age.
  • As of the end of March 2019, over 3.8 million children aged 6 to 59 months had been vaccinated as part of outbreak response measures. A communications campaign has also been launched to increase awareness of the importance of immunization.

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: September 4, 2019
Content source: Global Health