The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say they have seen 764 cases of measles so far this year, surpassing the highest number of cases seen in a single year since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. And it’s only May.
With outbreaks in New Jersey, Michigan, New York City, and Maryland, among others, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have worked to identify the counties across the US that are most at risk of further outbreaks this year.
The researchers identified the main factors in the resurgence of measles cases in the US as the reintroduction of the virus by people traveling to/from other countries experiencing outbreaks, and (going to shock you here) low vaccination rates fueled by non-medical exemptions. Using this as a basis, the team was able to predict which regions in the US are most at risk of further outbreaks and create an online interactive map that you can use to view the risk in your area.
“There has been a resurgence of measles cases, among other vaccine-preventable diseases, in the US and other countries in recent years,” Lauren Gardner, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.
“Measles, in particular, poses a serious public health threat due to the highly contagious nature of the disease. It is therefore critical that we proactively identify areas most likely to experience outbreaks to strategically target for surveillance and control.”
The analysis took into account non-medical vaccination exemption rates, anonymous full-route passenger travel data from all international airports, population and county size, as well as global measles outbreak data.
Using this information, their analysis was able to correctly identify areas that have already experienced outbreaks (such as Oregon, Washington, and New York), and predicted other areas that may be at risk.
These were the counties at risk of further outbreaks, from highest to lowest risk:
1) Cook, Illinois
2) Los Angeles, California
3) Miami-Dade, Florida
4) Queens, New York
5) King, Washington
6) Maricopa, Arizona
7) Broward, Florida
8) Clark, Nevada
9) Harris, Texas
10) Honolulu, Hawaii
11) Wayne, Michigan
12) Tarrant, Texas
13) Multnomah, Oregon
14) Orange, Florida
15) Essex, New Jersey
16) Denver, Colorado
17) Hillsborough, Florida
18) San Mateo, California
19) Salt Lake, Utah
20) Suffolk, Massachusetts
21) Clayton, Georgia
22) Travis, Texas
23) Hennepin, Minnesota
24) Loudoun, Virginia
25) San Diego, California
The authors also identified the countries that contribute the most risk of measles to the US: India, China, Mexico, Japan, Ukraine, Philippines, and Thailand.
The researchers recommend that public health officials focus their efforts on the counties identified to be at high risk, especially the ones that are adjacent to counties with ongoing outbreaks, and counties that contain large international airports.
The team, writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, say that their analysis could be applied to other vaccine-preventable diseases. They also have a message for anti-vaxxers.
“Anti-vaxxers are denying the best and very successful medical science we have,” Sahotra Sarkar, professor of philosophy and integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “[They are] choosing instead to rely on fraudulent claims, such as a purported link to autism, that have been uniformly debunked by evidence and analysis over the last two decades.”
You can check out their interactive map here, which shows the risk of outbreaks in your area of the US.