Measles (Rubeola)

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Eddie Hooker is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville and at Wright State University. His areas of expertise include emergency medicine, epidemiology, health-services management, and public health.

  • Medical Author: Mary K. Bister, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Why should people get vaccinated against measles?

Although measles was extremely rare in the United States in the 1990s and early 2000s, recently, there has been a marked increased number of cases.

When the number of vaccinated individuals starts to decrease, the disease starts to occur more frequently. This occurred from 1989 until 1991 in the U.S. During that period, there were 55,000 cases and 123 deaths from measles in the U.S. Due to a massive public-health effort, almost all children in the U.S. received measles vaccine before they were allowed to enter school. The number of cases of measles in the U.S. dropped to only 37 in 2004. At that time, most cases originated outside of the U.S. These cases came from three common sources: infants being adopted from China, U.S. travelers being exposed while out of the country (now most commonly from European travel), and from foreign travelers visiting the U.S.

However, in 2011, the number of cases grew to 222 because more people are not being vaccinated. Fortunately, there were no deaths among those 222. In 2014, the number of cases jumped dramatically to 644 cases, and there were 14 separate outbreaks. The largest outbreak was due to many unvaccinated children and adults in an Amish community in Ohio. A large multistate outbreak of measles started in December 2014 at Disneyland in California and continued into 2015. There were 48 cases of measles in 13 states in the first half of 2016. Most of the recent outbreaks are being traced back to individuals who refused vaccination and had foreign travel prior to onset of the illness.

Many states allow people to refuse vaccination for religious reasons (although no organized religion prohibits vaccination) and 17 states allow parents to refuse vaccinations for philosophical reasons. The only way to prevent this problem is to change laws to no longer allow refusal of vaccination except for documented allergy to vaccine components. Many states have up to 40% of preschoolers without proper vaccinations.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2016

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