CDC Official Anne Schuchat '80 Reports More U.S. Measles Cases in Single Month Than in Typical Year

Anne Schuchat '80

Anne Schuchat '80 (right) during a news briefing on government response to swine flu. 

The Wall Street Journal: Measles Are Off To Fast Start This Year

Measles are off to a busy start in the U.S. this year, with 84 cases reported as of Jan. 28, exceeding some recent yearly totals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The high number of cases [this January] follows a particularly busy 2014 and has health officials concerned about further spread of a disease that officially was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.

“We want to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the U.S. and becoming endemic again,” Anne Schuchat ['80], director of the CDC’s national center for immunization and respiratory diseases, told reporters during a conference call.

The median number of measles cases a year between 2001 and 2010 was 60, Dr. Schuchat said—fewer than were reported in the first four weeks of this year. The true number of cases in January could be even higher, as the CDC counts only cases that have been confirmed.

Those infected with measles but not linked to the outbreaks at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure recently had been in Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Qatar, India and Dubai, said Dr. Schuchat.

While the source of the Disney outbreaks isn’t known, public health officials believe it was started by someone visiting one of the parks who had been infected overseas, she said.

Genetic analysis links the virus causing the upsurge to outbreaks in 14 nations, she noted.

Dr. Schuchat stressed the importance of immunization and said the vaccine is safe and effective.

“This is not a problem of the measles vaccine not working,” she said. “This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”

Schuchat also spoke to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report, among other media outlets. 

Anne Schuchat '80 graduated with highest honors from Swarthmore College, majoring in philosophy with a minor in biology. She completed her M.D. from Dartmouth Medical School in 1984 and joined the CDC in 1988. In her career, she has headed the CDC's anthrax response team after 9/11, the World Health Organization's team in China during the SARS outbreak, and the 2009 H1N1 response. Her work has also included meningitis vaccine studies in West Africa and the prevention of streptococcal disease in children. At Commencement 2005, Schuchat received an honorary Doctorate of Science and addressed the graduates; she later returned to campus to deliver the 2011 McCabe Lecture.