Local Health Departments Play a Key Role in Measles Outbreak Response

The CDC held a press conference on January 29 in response to the ongoing measles outbreak. State and local health departments are working vigorously investigating the current multistate measles outbreak. Since January 1, 84 measles cases have been confirmed in 14 states, more cases than the median number of cases per year over the last decade. Dr. Ann Schuchat, the assistant surgeon general, United States Public Health Service and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, thanked “state and local health departments that are working day and night to follow up on all of the cases.”

More adults than usual are becoming infected with measles and most of the cases (adults and children) have not been vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination history. The majority of the cases in 2015 have been traced back to an ongoing outbreak originating at Disneyland theme parks in California, with the first case likely being imported from overseas. Exposure during this outbreak of measles cases have been traced to a variety of locations including schools, day cares, emergency departments, outpatient clinics, and airplanes.

Measles outbreaks are harder to control when they reach communities with higher numbers of unvaccinated populations. In the United States approximately one in every twelve children do not receive their first Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination on time. Seventeen states have less than 90% of children receiving their first dose, leaving many children vulnerable for infection. Persons who medically cannot be vaccinated, including pregnant women and immunocompromised, are most vulnerable to complications with measles infection.

Routine MMR vaccine should be administered to children at 12 months of age with a second dose between four and six years of age. Adults who have no history of measles illness and no history of measles vaccination should also receive two doses of MMR vaccine, with the second dose administered no less than 4 weeks (28 days) after the first dose. Adults with unknown vaccination history are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider to be vaccinated; there is no harm in receiving another MMR vaccine if the patient may have already received one.

View the transcript from the January 29 media briefing.

About Lisa McKeown
Lisa McKeown serves as the Senior Program Analyst for NACCHO’s Immunization portfolio. Lisa engages local health departments and immunization partners to increase the capacity of local health departments to prevent and control vaccine preventable diseases.

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