Imported measles and rubella pose threat to US elimination of the diseases, says CDC report

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 09 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7373
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

The United States has sustained its elimination of endemic measles, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome, but infections acquired abroad still pose a threat to public health, an expert panel convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.1

Until 1963 nearly every child in the US contracted measles. About 450 to 500 people died each year from the infection, about 48 000 needed to be admitted to hospital, and about 1000 were left with permanent brain damage or deafness.

The incidence of measles and rubella fell rapidly in the US after the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963 and the rubella vaccine in 1969. The US confirmed elimination of measles in 2001 and of rubella in 2004.

Elimination is defined as the absence of endemic disease transmission—that is, a chain of transmission that is continuous for at least 12 months in a defined geographical area. It does not mean that no cases occur, because of imported infections and …

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