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April 8, 1992

The Geographic Distribution of Measles in the United States, 1980 Through 1989

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Immunization, National Center for Prevention Services, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Ga. Dr Hersh is now with the International Health Program Office, Centers for Disease Control, and Dr Funkhouser is now with the Hepatitis Viruses Branch, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

JAMA. 1992;267(14):1936-1941. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480140062034

Objective.  —To describe the geographic distribution of measles cases in the United States by county for the 10-year period from 1980 through 1989.

Design.  —Ecological analysis of national measles surveillance data.

Methods.  —Measles cases reported to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from 1980 through 1989 were analyzed. Data from the 1980 and 1990 US censuses were used to produce demographic profiles for each of the 3137 counties. Outcome variables examined included mean annual incidence and number of years reporting measles, with use of Spearman's rank correlation coefficients to examine the association between the demographic and the two outcome variables.

Results.  —A total of 56775 measles cases were reported during the decade. Of the nation's 3137 counties, 1690 (53.9%) did not report any cases; only 17 (0.5%) reported measles in all 10 years. Counties reporting measles more frequently during the decade had higher median populations, population densities, and percentage of black and Hispanic populations than those counties reporting less frequently. Population size, population density, and percentage of Hispanic population were associated with number of years reporting measles and mean annual measles incidence rate. Measles cases in counties reporting measles every year predominately occurred in unvaccinated preschoolers; cases in counties reporting less frequently predominately occurred in vaccinated school-aged children.

Conclusions.  —This analysis illustrates the focal nature of measles in the United States during the past decade. Most counties have not reported a single case of measles during the entire decade, and only 17 counties reported measles every year. Targeted strategies are needed to improve age-appropriate immunization levels among preschool-aged children living in large inner-city areas.(JAMA. 1992;267:1936-1941)