CDC urges vaccination amid rise in measles cases in the US and globally

US health authorities are alerting medical professionals to the significant surge in measles cases worldwide and advising families traveling to affected countries to vaccinate babies as young as 6 months before departure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory urging doctors to raise awareness of measles’ global spread and recommending early vaccination for infants if international travel is planned. With the imminent spring and summer travel seasons, the CDC emphasized the measles outbreaks in various countries, including Austria, the Philippines, Romania, and the United Kingdom, frequently visited by American travelers.

Highlighting concerns about vaccination rates, particularly in 36 US states where less than 95% of kindergarteners are immunized against measles, the CDC stressed the importance of achieving herd immunity. While vaccination rates in the US remain robust, Dr. Nirav Shah, CDC’s principal deputy director, emphasized a slight decline in rates to 93%, equivalent to approximately 250,000 unprotected kindergarteners.

The measles vaccine, highly effective with two doses offering 97% protection, is considered among the most reliable preventive measures. Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association, emphasized the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting vaccines’ efficacy and safety in preventing illness and safeguarding public health.

In updated travel guidelines, the CDC advised international travelers unsure of their vaccination status to consult a doctor at least six weeks before departure for full immunization. Infants, typically vaccinated at one year, are recommended to receive the measles, mumps, and rubella shot a few months earlier to safeguard against the highly contagious infection.

Moreover, unvaccinated children over a year old should receive two doses of the measles-containing vaccine at least 28 days apart before travel. Measles, capable of lingering in the air for two hours and spreading through contact, poses significant risks, particularly to unvaccinated individuals.

While the US has eliminated measles as an endemic infection, imported cases still occur annually, primarily affecting unvaccinated travelers. With 58 measles cases reported across 17 jurisdictions in 2024, equivalent to the total cases in 2023, the US remains vigilant against local spread.

Travelers displaying measles symptoms, including rash, fever, cough, and runny nose, are urged to seek medical attention promptly, notifying clinics in advance to prevent potential spread. With measles cases rising globally due to missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO reported an 18% increase in cases and a 43% rise in deaths in 2023, underscoring the urgent need for vaccination and preventive measures.