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Measles Now Spreading in 4 States: "A Relentlessly Increasing Threat"

Health officials are keeping an eye on recent outbreaks of the highly contagious virus.

It's not uncommon to worry about viruses including COVID-19 or the flu each winter, when seasonal conditions make outbreaks somewhat more likely. But occasionally, we're reminded that those familiar foes aren't the only potentially serious pathogens that can pop up. Health officials in a handful of states now say they are monitoring for spreading measles cases after more than a dozen were reported, U.S. News reports.

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Even though it was officially declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, the highly contagious virus can still pop up stateside when travelers bring it back from other infected regions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms typically first show up within seven to 14 days after exposure, with cough, runny nose, high fever, and red and watery eyes that eventually progress to a telltale raised red rash three to five days later.

Fortunately, the measles vaccine has been proven very effective and prevents infection in 97 percent of people who receive one, according to the agency. But declining vaccination rates have led to recent outbreaks, including one in 2019 that saw nearly 1,300 cases reported across 31 states in the highest annual spike since 1992, per the CDC.

Because of the risk the virus poses to certain susceptible populations, top-ranking health officials have begun to draw their focus back to it. In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC warned that "measles continues to pose a relentlessly increasing threat to children," citing a joint report from the agencies that found an 18 percent rise in cases and a 43 percent jump in deaths from the virus from 2021 to 2022.

"The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we've seen in the past few years," John Vertefeuille, director of CDC's Global Immunization Division, said in the statement. "Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths."

But where are the latest cases popping up in the U.S.? Read on for the states where measles has been reported in recent weeks.


city skyline and the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at dusk

Health officials in Pennsylvania have been following a growing number of measles cases in recent weeks. The first reported infection was at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia before spreading to a daycare facility in the city, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

On Jan. 16, officials with the Philadelphia Health Department announced that another case of measles had been reported. This brings the number of cases linked to the daycare facility to five. It's the ninth case overall for the area.

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New Jersey

Newark skyline at night

On Jan. 13, health officials in New Jersey announced that a Camden County resident had tested positive for measles, CBS News reported. They warned that the infected patient may have exposed others to the virus at two healthcare facilities and a daycare center, adding that affected individuals could develop symptoms as late as Feb. 2.

"Given the serious consequences of measles and the ease with which it can be spread, we will be engaged in a large investigative effort centered on locating and ensuring the immune status of those individuals who may have been in contact with this patient," Camden County Health Officer Paschal Nwako said in a statement. "In the meantime, we urge all residents to be vigilant of symptoms and to make sure they are up to date on their MMR vaccine because that is the best way we can protect ourselves and others from this disease."

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city skyline and Christiana River in Wilmington, Delaware

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) reported a confirmed case of measles as well on Jan. 11, according to a statement from the agency. Officials said that 20 to 30 people at Nemours Children's Hospital in Wilmington could've been exposed to the virus by the patient, who was "not symptomatic but was infectious at the time of their visit to the facility."

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Bellevue Washington. The snowy Alpine Lakes Wilderness mountain peaks rise behind the urban skyline.

The latest reported measles cases aren't just limited to the East Coast. On Jan. 11, health officials in Clark and Wahkiakum counties in southwest Washington confirmed that six people were infected with the virus, local ABC affiliate KOMO reported.

In this instance, officials confirmed that all cases were adult members of the same family who were unvaccinated, Newsweek reports. But while there is a limited risk of outside exposure, they still urged the public to stay vigilant for any possible signs or symptoms of the virus.

"It's a serious illness, and we shouldn't be seeing it anymore, and we thought we had eradicated it completely in the U.S., but now because we have immunization rates aren't as high as we need them to be, we're seeing a resurgence of measles," Alan Melnick, MD, public health director for Clark County, told KOMO.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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