CDC: 'Measles Is an Imminent Threat in Every Region of the World'

Susan Jones | November 29, 2022 | 8:04am EST
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A Yemeni child receives treatment for measles Sanaa, Yemen on March 21, 2021. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A Yemeni child receives treatment for measles Sanaa, Yemen on March 21, 2021. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Measles vaccinations steadily declined during the COVID pandemic, and that leaves 40 million children worldwide "dangerously susceptible" to infection, according to a joint publication by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report says 22 countries experienced "large and disruptive" measles outbreaks in 2021, when an estimated 9 million cases caused some 128,000 deaths worldwide.

"Declines in vaccine coverage, weakened measles surveillance, and continued interruptions and delays in immunization activities due to COVID-19, as well as persistent large outbreaks in 2022, mean that measles is an imminent threat in every region of the world," WHO/CDC said.

As of November 17, 2022, a total of 51 measles cases were reported in the United States.

"The record number of children under-immunized and susceptible to measles shows the profound damage immunization systems have sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky. 

“Measles outbreaks illustrate weaknesses in immunization programs, but public health officials can use outbreak response to identify communities at risk, understand causes of under-vaccination, and help deliver locally tailored solutions to ensure vaccinations are available to all.”

The WHO/CDC note that measles anywhere is a threat everywhere because the virus is so contagious.

The CDC says that 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 traveling 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.

Since 2016, 10 countries that had previously eliminated measles experienced outbreaks and reestablished transmission.

The top ten countries for current measles cases are:

1. India (9,489 cases)

2. Somalia (8,435)

3. Yemen (6,478)

4. Zimbabwe (5,094)

5. Nigeria (4,551)

6. Liberia (4,085)

7. Pakistan (3,635)

8. Ethiopia (3,060)

9. Afghanistan (1,738)

10. Congo (1,329)

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