When was measles eradicated in the United States?

The Flag Contributor
When was measles eradicated in the United States?

Answer: 2000

Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by a virus that manifests itself through a fever, runny nose, cough, and irritated eyes. These symptoms, which usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person, then may lead to small white spots on the inside of the mouth, a rash, or even worse, seizures, blindness, or inflammation of the brain. Thankfully, the measles vaccine is effective at preventing the disease, resulting in a 75% decrease in deaths over the past two decades.

If we rewind roughly two decades ago to the year 2000, that’s when Measles was declared eliminated (which means an absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the United States. Prior to this, the disease is something that has been around for centuries. According to the CDC, “In the 9th century, a Persian doctor published one of the first written accounts of measles disease.” Then in 1757, Francis Home, a Scottish physician, demonstrated that ‘measles is caused by an infectious agent in the blood of patients.” Later on in the 20th century, “measles became a nationally notifiable disease in the United States, requiring U.S. healthcare providers and laboratories to report all diagnosed cases. In the first decade of reporting, an average of 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported each year.” Needless to say, it spreads easily and has been a nuisance to individuals and overall public health for a long time. In the early 1960s, it was estimated that 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. This lead to 400-500 deaths, nearly 50,000 hospitalizations, and many other side effects.

The facts are important to understand in light of recent outbreaks around the United States. An outbreak, defined as three or more cases, has been reported in New York state, New York City, Washington, Texas, Illinois and California. The 314 cases nationwide as of March 21 is inching closer to the 372 for all of last year. The Pew Research Center pointed out that the increasing number of cases has “renewed a debate over whether parents should be required to vaccinate their children. Some parents express concern that vaccinations could be harmful to their children, but scientific consensus on the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) remains strong and surveys have found that most Americans see childhood vaccinations as beneficial.” For example, 88% of U.S. adults said the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risks, while 10% said the risks outweigh the benefits. The disease was eradicated almost 20 years ago – it would be nice to keep it that way.