25 USA Counties At Risk for Future Measles Outbreaks

Measles outbreaks forecasted near Austin Texas, Honolulu Hawai, and Salt Lake City

US map

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Johns Hopkins University have identified 25 counties across the USA to be most at risk for a measles outbreak. 

These high-risk counties were identified due to low-vaccination rates compounded by a high volume of international travel, according to this new analysis. 

Sahotra Sarkar, a philosophy and integrative biology professor at UT Austin and an expert on public health said in a press release, “We have long known that vaccine avoidance is a critical public health issue.” 

“Our results show how travel from regions elsewhere compounds this risk.” 

These researchers warned the most at-risk areas that have yet to report a case are those near international airports, such as Travis County in Texas, Honolulu County, Salt Lake County and multiple counties in Florida. 

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This study showed that travel from countries such as India, China, Mexico, Japan, Ukraine, Philippines, and Thailand appear to pose the greatest measles risk. 

As of May 7th, the European Region reported 34,300 measles cases in 42 countries during 2019.

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The U.S. has already seen measles cases imported from Ukraine, the Philippines, Thailand, and Israel.

As an example, the ongoing measles outbreak in New York City has been related to travelers who visited Isreal during 2018.  

Beyond the study, researchers suggest the risk analysis be applied to other vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as mumps, rubella, and pertussis, and should be used to inform public health policy in an age when nonmedical exemption rates are becoming increasingly prevalent. 

“The vaccine avoidance problem is not limited to measles. Pertussis — whooping cough — is another disease making a comeback because of dropping vaccination rates, and we predict serious outbreaks in the U.S. in the near future,” Sarkar said. 

“Policymakers must focus on centers of vaccination refusal as well as regions with a lot of passenger inflow from affected countries worldwide if there are even small local pockets of unvaccinated people.”

In the USA, most pharmacies offer measles vaccines, such as MMR-II or Proquad.

Measles vaccine financial assistance programs can be found at Vaccine Discounts.

Media contact: Rachel Griess, College of Liberal Arts, [email protected]