Epidemiology of measles in the United States in 1989 and 1990

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During 1989 and 1990 measles incidence increased sharply in the United States. We compared cases reported during these years with those reported between 1981 and 1988. Incidence increased 462% in 1989, and incidence in 1990 (11.2/100 000) was the highest in more than a decade. Although all ages were affected the greatest increases were in children < 5 years and in adults. Incidence was 7-to 10-fold higher among racial/ethnic minority preschoolers than whites, and 80% of vaccine-eligible preschool age cases were unvaccinated. Complications occurred in 9418 (20.5%) cases, most frequently in young children and adults. Large urban outbreaks affecting predominantly unvaccinated preschoolers were common; 47% of all cases reported in 1990 were associated with 5 outbreaks. Reasons for the increased incidence are not clear. Current information suggests no change in vaccination coverage among preschool age children or in vaccine efficacy. Continued surveillance and evaluation of epidemiologic and laboratory data are necessary. The most pressing need is to improve age-appropriate vaccination among preschool age children.

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