Modeling Measles Transmission in the North American Amish and Options for Outbreak Response

Risk Anal. 2016 Jul;36(7):1404-17. doi: 10.1111/risa.12440. Epub 2015 Jun 22.


Measles outbreaks in the United States continue to occur in subpopulations with sufficient numbers of undervaccinated individuals, with a 2014 outbreak in Amish communities in Ohio pushing the annual cases to the highest national number reported in the last 20 years. We adapted an individual-based model developed to explore potential poliovirus transmission in the North American Amish to characterize a 1988 measles outbreak in the Pennsylvania Amish and the 2014 outbreak in the Ohio Amish. We explored the impact of the 2014 outbreak response compared to no or partial response. Measles can spread very rapidly in an underimmunized subpopulation like the North American Amish, with the potential for national spread within a year or so in the absence of outbreak response. Vaccination efforts significantly reduced the transmission of measles and the expected number of cases. Until global eradication, measles importations will continue to pose a threat to clusters of underimmunized individuals in the United States. Aggressive outbreak response efforts in Ohio probably prevented widespread transmission of measles within the entire North American Amish.

Keywords: Amish; disease outbreaks; immunization; individual-based model; measles; undervaccinated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amish*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Humans
  • Measles / prevention & control
  • Measles / transmission*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Ohio
  • Vaccination