U.S. Measles Cases in 2024 Already Surpass Last Year’s Total

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March 27, 2024 – The U.S. has now tallied more measles cases this year than were reported in all of 2023.

In newly published data, the CDC’s year-to-date count now stands at 64 cases of measles, surpassing the 2023 total case count of 58. 

During the first 3 months of last year, there had only been seven reported cases of measles, meaning that there has been more than an 800% increase when comparing the first 3 months of 2023 to 2024. If that pace continues, the total number of measles cases in the U.S. this year would reach into the hundreds.

But the increase isn’t yet so large that it would shatter modern-day records. In 2019, there were more than 1,000 measles cases spread across 31 states. Nearly 90% of those cases were not linked directly to international travel, but instead spread within close-knit communities with low rates of people vaccinated against measles.

So far this year, the disease has been confirmed in 17 states, including 11 cases in Florida and 33 cases in Chicago. The majority of the Chicago cases are among children ages 4 and under, but nine people diagnosed with measles were between the ages of 18 and 49, and one person was age 50 or older. Chicago’s case count is rapidly rising, and health officials are urging people at a widely affected migrant shelter to get vaccinated, while also warning people of possible exposures at a suburban restaurant and at a medical center, CBS News reported.

Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus that spreads through the air and by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus can remain in the air for up to 2 hours after an infected person leaves a room, and as many as 90% of unvaccinated people who come in close contact with someone who is infected will become infected also, the CDC says.

The disease typically causes a high fever, coughing, a runny nose and watery eyes, plus white spots inside the mouth and a rash. But 1 in 5 unvaccinated people are hospitalized when they get measles. Severe complications include pneumonia, and brain swelling that can lead to intellectual disability. The respiratory and neurological complications carry an increased risk of death.

The full two-dose vaccine series against measles is 97% effective at preventing the disease, and just one dose is 93% effective, according to the CDC.