Elimination of indigenous measles from the United States

Rev Infect Dis. May-Jun 1983;5(3):538-45. doi: 10.1093/clinids/5.3.538.


In October 1978, a nationwide initiative to eliminate indigenous measles from the United States by October 1, 1982, was announced. The measles elimination program has three major elements: attaining and maintaining high immunization levels, aggressive and effective surveillance, and vigorous response to cases. In 1980, immunization levels in children entering school for the first time were 96%, indicating that the necessary levels have been attained in the age group. Mechanisms are in place to assure maintenance of these levels; these rely heavily on the use of immunization requirements for school attendance in each state. Aggressive surveillance systems have been developed for each state to detect suspected measles cases as soon as possible after they occur and to investigate them within 24 hr of notification. The clinical definition of measles used is fever of greater than or equal to 101 F (38.3 C); rash of three or more days duration; and cough, coryza, or conjunctivitis. The response to outbreaks involves identifying persons in the area who are at risk of contracting measles, determining those who are possibly susceptible, and ensuring that these persons are vaccinated. In school outbreaks, susceptible students are vaccinated or excluded from school until the outbreak is over. During 1981, measles morbidity reached a record low level of only 3,032 reported cases (provisional total). Epidemic measles occurred in only a few outbreaks of limited size and duration, and endemic cases were restricted to a small number. Imported cases averaged slightly more than two per week, occasionally producing limited outbreaks, but more often resulting in no secondary spread. Transmission of measles has been interrupted in most of the United States. With continued vigorous implementation of the current strategy and with additional measures to lessen the risk of importations, it appears likely that the goal to eliminate indigenous measles transmission will be attained by October 1982.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Measles / epidemiology
  • Measles / prevention & control*
  • National Health Programs
  • United States
  • Vaccination* / statistics & numerical data