Measles in Michigan: Resurgence in 2018

Bureau of EMS, Trauma & Preparedness Logo

Sunset on the river in winter

Measles in Michigan: Resurgence in 2018

Alyssa Nowak, MPH – Adult and Adolescent Coordinator – MDHHS Division of Immunization

Measles is an extremely contagious, vaccine-preventable virus that is spread via coughing and sneezing and can live in an airspace for up to two hours. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 90% of people within close quarters of an infected individual will become infected themselves if they are not immune (CDC, 2016). This past year, Michigan experienced an alarming increase in the number of cases of measles with a total number of 19 confirmed cases for 2018. The last time Michigan experienced this many cases of measles was over 24 years ago in 1994.

Although Michigan only saw two cases of measles in 2017, the presence of measles outbreaks across the nation, and worldwide, played a part in the state’s uptick of confirmed measles cases this past year. In the World Health Organization (WHO) European region, measles cases have hit a record high with over 41,000 cases reported in the first half of 2018 alone (World Health Organization [WHO], 2018).  Although measles was declared eliminated in the Americas in 2016, endemic transmission of the virus has now been reestablished in Venezuela. As of August 2018, Venezuela had reported 3,545 confirmed cases of measles, including 62 deaths (WHO Pan American Health Organization [PAHO], 2018).  According to CDC, most measles cases in the United States result from international travel. Anyone who is not protected against measles, either through past infection or vaccination, is at risk for contracting the disease when traveling internationally. Unfortunately, unvaccinated people continue to get measles while traveling abroad and proceed to bring the disease back into the United States and spread it to others.

A large majority of the measles cases reported in Michigan over the last 18 years included persons who were not adequately vaccinated. Measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. CDC recommends that children get two doses of MMR vaccine starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at age 4 through 6 years (CDC, 2016). Prior to any international travel, CDC recommends that infants 6-11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine, and all adults who do not have evidence of immunity should receive two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days. It is essential that everyone is fully up-to-date on all routine vaccinations, including MMR and influenza, prior to any international travel. Vaccinations can take up to 6 months prior to travel to complete, so plan accordingly.

For more information about measles vaccination recommendations, visit the CDC measles vaccination website. The measles vaccine is very safe and the most effective way to protect yourself and those around you from this highly contagious disease.



Centers for Disease Control [CDC] (2016). Measles Vaccination. Retrieved from

World Health Organization [WHO] (2018). Measles cases hit record high in European Region. Retrieved from

WHO Pan American Health Organization [PAHO] (2018). PAHO urges rapid increase in vaccination coverage to stop spread of measles in the Americas. Retrieved from