Measles Cases in U.S. Hit 15-Year Peak: What's Going On?

Sometimes even widespread immunization can't stop a disease entirely—and that's exactly what has happened with measles, which persists in America, with 118 cases reported this year alone. What's especially strange, though, is that the rate is rising and is now at a 15-year high. Why is this happening? Here's NPR's Scott Hensley:

So far this year there have been 118 cases of measles reported in the United States.

Now that may not sound like a whole lot, but that makes this the busiest period for measles since 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. In fact, in the last decade, the median number of cases each year has been only 56.

What's going on?

Well, measles in this country is, thank goodness, no longer an established disease that spreads in a sustained way from person to person. Vaccination in the U.S. was the key to eliminating measles as an everyday infection.

Now, the vast majority of U.S. cases are imported: 105, or 89 percent, of the cases covered in the latest report.

That "unusually large number of importations," as the CDC put it, is tied to an increase in measles cases in countries frequented by U.S. travelers. And the problem in those countries boils down to inadequate vaccination.

Read the full story at NPR.

Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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