As US Measles Cases Rise, Southeast Alaskans Can Protect Each Other With MMR Vaccination

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – The City and Borough of Juneau and the Alaska Division of Public Health, Juneau Public Health Center is encouraging Southeast Alaskans to be sure that they and their children are up to date on their MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination as cases rise across the US.

As of April 18, 2024, a total of 125 measles cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 18 U.S. jurisdictions. Nearly half of the cases were in children less than 5 years old and the great majority were in individuals who were unvaccinated (or had unknown status); 56% of cases were hospitalized. None of the US cases reported so far this year occurred in Alaska.

Many people think measles is just a minor rash and fever, but measles can cause serious health complications, especially for unvaccinated children under 5 years of age. 

Routine vaccination with the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine is very safe and over 97% effective in preventing acquisition of the measles virus. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. However, when more than 95% of people in a community are vaccinated, most people are protected through community immunity. 

Most Alaskans are protected from measles though prior vaccination or prior infection. (The majority of people born before 1957 are likely to have been infected naturally.) However, the vaccination coverage rates among Southeast Alaskan kindergartners has declined in recent years and is currently at only 67%. This puts our communities at high risk for measles outbreaks if cases occur. This could happen—like most measles outbreaks do—when someone carries measles home from travel, or when a traveler from elsewhere visits the community. The Alaska Division of Public Health is encouraging Alaskans to be sure that they and their children are up to date on their MMR vaccination (and all recommended vaccinations). Vaccination protects you, your family, and the community.