3 graphics show how the measles epidemic is getting worse across the US

  • Measles is on the rise in the United States.
  • As of April 4, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 465 cases of measles in 19 states across the US, and that number continues to grow.
  • Anti-vaccine propaganda and vaccine exemptions rule in certain states could be causing the disease to spread to unprotected populations at a fast rate.

Measles was once considered eliminated in the United States, but a recent decline in vaccine coverage has led to a growing outbreak. As of April 4, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 465 cases of measles and that number is still rising.

Number measles cases by year United StatesShayanne Gal/INSIDERThe number of measles cases in the US between 2010 and 2019.

The map below shows the number of measles cases reported in various states so far in 2019. There are at least 453 reported measles cases in New York alone, and 285 of those cases came from one Brooklyn neighbourhood (Williamsburg) in New York City.

Measles cases every state 2019 mapShayanne Gal/INSIDERThe total number of measles cases in 2019 by state.

Although New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has mandated that people in certain Brooklyn neighbourhoods must get the measles vaccine to contain the outbreak, exemption rules in New York state and other states could prevent that from becoming reality.


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Some school districts require their students to have measles and other vaccines to attend school, but there are medical, religious, and philosophical exemptions in different states that a person can claim in order to skip out on vaccines.

Vaccine exemptions every state mapShayanne Gal/INSIDERVaccines exemptions by state for medical, philosophical, and religious reasons.

If a person claims religious exemption, it means they hold a religious belief so strong that “if the state forced vaccination, it would be an infringement on their constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs.” Philosophical exemptions are for those who “hold conscientious objections to one or more vaccines,” but fewer than half of US states offer this type of exemption.

Medical exemptions are pretty difficult to claim since they require a doctor gives written proof that a vaccine could cause harm to a person’s health.

These rules could be contributing to the continued spread of measles.

Vaccines don’t guarantee a person won’t get measles, but they are the best way to prevent the disease. They also help to create herd immunity, which means the more people who get vaccines that are physically able, the more people are protected from diseases, even if they themselves are unable to be vaccinated.

According to the CDC, two doses of the MMR vaccine is 97% effective at preventing measles. It is recommended children get both doses – one between the ages of 12 and 15 months and another when they are between 4 and 6 years old. Just one dose of the MMR vaccine is 93% effective.

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