A limited measles outbreak in a highly vaccinated US boarding school

Pediatrics. 2005 Dec;116(6):1287-91. doi: 10.1542/peds.2004-2718.


Objectives: We investigated a measles outbreak that began in March 2003 in a Pennsylvania boarding school with >600 students to identify all cases, including the source; implement outbreak control measures; and evaluate vaccine effectiveness.

Methods: Measles was suspected in any person at the school with a generalized rash and fever during March 21 to May 28, 2003 and investigated with serologic testing. We reviewed vaccination history from school records and conducted a survey to determine country of measles vaccination. Vaccine effectiveness was calculated using the cohort method.

Results: We identified 9 laboratory-confirmed cases at the school: 8 students and 1 staff member. Among them, 2 had never received any doses of measles-containing vaccine (MCV), 1 received 1 dose of MCV, and 6 received 2 doses of MCV. Three of the 6 who received 2 doses of MCV received both doses outside the United States. The source case had been infected in Lebanon. Two laboratory-confirmed spread cases were identified in New York City. Measles virus of genotype D4 was isolated in cases from the school and New York City. Of the 663 students in the school, 8 (1.2%) had never received any doses of MCV, 26 (3.9%) had received 1 dose, and 629 (94.9%) had received 2 doses before the outbreak. Vaccine effectiveness among students who had received 2 doses of MCV was 98.6%. However, students who received both doses outside the United States had a higher attack rate (3 of 75) than those who received both doses in the United States (3 of 509; rate ratio: 6.8; 95% confidence interval: 1.4-33.0).

Conclusions: This is the largest measles outbreak to occur in a school in the United States since 1998, but it was limited to only 9 cases in a boarding school with >600 students. The limited extent of this outbreak highlights the high level of population immunity achieved in the United States through widespread implementation of a 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccination strategy in school-aged children. States and schools should continue to enforce strictly the 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccination requirement and, in an outbreak setting, consider revaccinating students who received measles vaccine outside of the United States. Continued vigilance by health care providers is needed to recognize measles cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Disease Outbreaks* / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Measles / epidemiology*
  • Measles / prevention & control
  • Measles / transmission
  • Measles Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Public Health Practice
  • Schools*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaccination


  • Measles Vaccine