When Was the Last Measles Death in the United States?

How many measles deaths have there been in the United States in the past ten years? Dr. Bob Sears has frequently said that there have been none. 

Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn't deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe - another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn’t deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe – another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.

It is easy to see that Dr. Bob is wrong, not even counting the latest death in 2015.

Measles Deaths in the United States

Measles deaths are thought to occur in about 1 in every 500 to 1,000 reported cases. This is not just in developing countries or in people with chronic medical conditions.

Consider that in an outbreak in the United States from 1989 to 1991, amid 55,622 cases, there were 123 deaths.

More recently, measles cases and measles deaths in the United States include:

  • 2000 – 86 cases – 1 measles death (infant)  – endemic spread of measles eliminated in U.S.
  • 2001 – 116 cases – 1 measles death
  • 2002 – 44 cases
  • 2003 – 55 cases – 1 measles death (1 year old)
  • 2004 – 37 cases – record low number of measles cases
  • 2005 – 66 cases – 1 measles death (1 year old)
  • 2006 – 55 cases
  • 2007 – 43 cases
  • 2008 – 140 cases
  • 2009 – 71 cases – 2 measles deaths
  • 2010 – 63 cases – 2 measles deaths
  • 2011 – 220 cases
  • 2012 – 55 cases – 2 measles deaths
  • 2013 – 187 cases (large outbreak in New York City – 58 cases)
  • 2014 – 667 cases (the worst year for measles since 1994, including the largest single outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated – 377 cases in Ohio)
  • 2015 – 188 cases – got off to a strong start with a big outbreak in California – 1 measles death
  • 2016 – 86 cases
  • 2017 – 120 cases
  • 2018 – 372

So that’s 11 measles deaths since 2000 and at least 8 measles deaths since 2005.

The last death, a woman in Clallam County in Washington, was exposed in an outbreak of mostly unvaccinated people in 2015.

Why do people say that there have been no measles deaths in the United States in the past 10 years? Whether they are misinformed or intentionally trying to misinform people, they are wrong.

The Last Verifiable Measles Death in the United States

The CDC is actually contributing a bit to the confusion over measles deaths, in that when asked, they have historically said that “the last verifiable death in the United States from acute measles infection occurred in 2003 when there were 2 reported deaths.”

They explain the discrepancy between that statement and other CDC reports, like the recently published “Summary of Notifiable Diseases — United States, 2012,” which clearly documents measles deaths in 2005, 2009, and 2010, by saying that those reports are based on “statistical information about deaths in the United States.”

But that statistical information comes from death certificates that are sent in from all over the United States to the National Vital Statistics System. The system isn’t like VAERS, where just anyone can send in a report. You don’t necessarily have to be a doctor to sign and file a death certificate though either, which is why the CDC is probably hung up on saying that the last verifiable measles deaths were in 2003.

To be more precise when talking about measles deaths in the United States, since it doesn’t seem like the CDC has verified each and every measles death after 2003, it is likely best to say that death certificates have been filed in 2005, 2009 (2), 2010 (2), and 2012 (2) that listed measles as a cause of death code.

Of course, that still means that there have been measles deaths in the United States since 2003, especially now that the CDC actually states that “the last measles death in the United States occurred in 2015.”

SSPE – More Measles Deaths

Lately, in addition to deaths from acute measles infections, there have been even more deaths from subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).

About 6 to 8 years after having measles, children with SSPE develop progressive neurological symptoms, including memory loss, behavior changes, uncontrollable movements, and even seizures. As symptoms progress, they may become blind, develop stiff muscles, become unable to walk, and eventually deteriorate to a persistent vegetative state.

Children with SSPE usually die within 1 to 3 years of first developing symptoms, including in the United States:

  • 2000 – 5 SSPE deaths
  • 2001 – 2 SSPE deaths
  • 2002 – 5 SSPE deaths
  • 2003 – 0
  • 2004 – 1 SSPE death
  • 2005 – 2 SSPE deaths
  • 2006 – 3 SSPE deaths
  • 2007 – 3 SSPE deaths
  • 2008 – 3 SSPE deaths
  • 2009 – 2 SSPE deaths
  • 2010 – 0
  • 2011 – 4 SSPE deaths
  • 2012 – 1 SSPE death
  • 2013 – 1 SSPE death
  • 2014 – 0
  • 2015 – 1 SSPE death
  • 2016 – 0
  • 2017 – 0

That’s 33 SSPE deaths since 2000 and at least 20 SSPE deaths since 2005. Why so many? Many of them can likely be attributed to the large number of cases associated with measles outbreaks from 1989 to 1991.

Fortunately, as the number of measles cases has been dropping in the post-vaccine era, so have the number of SSPE deaths.

The National Registry for SSPE, reported that there were at least 453 cases between 1960 and 1976. There were 225 deaths from SSPE between 1979 and 1998. The registry wasn’t established until 1969 though, and it is now becoming clear that the risk of developing SSPE is much higher than once thought.

A recent study of measles in Germany has found that the risk of developing SSPE is about 1 in 1,700 to 1 in 3,300 cases of measles.

Other Myths About Measles Deaths

One of the classic measles myths we hear is that measles was disappearing even before the measles vaccine was developed. It is true that measles deaths had been dropping since the turn of the century.

The measles death rate (deaths per 100,000 people) in the United States was:

  • 1900 – 13.3 (about 7000 deaths)
  • 1910 – 12.4
  • 1920 – 8.8
  • 1930 – 3.2
  • 1935 – 3.1
  • 1940 – 0.5
  • 1945 – 0.2
  • 1950 – 0.3 (468 deaths)
  • 1955 – 0.2 (345 deaths)
  • 1960 – 0.2 (380 deaths)
  • 1963 – first measles vaccine licensed
  • 1965 – 0.1 (276 deaths)
  • 1970 – 0.0 (89 deaths)
  • 1975 – 0.0 (20 deaths)
  • 1980 – 0.0 (11 deaths)
  • 1985 – 0.0 (4 deaths)

That’s not surprising though. The general death rate had dropped from 17.8 in 1900 to 7.6 in 1960. For infants under age 12 months, the death rate dropped from 162.4 in 1933 to 27 in 1960.

This simply reflects that vaccines were not the only medical technology that helped to save lives in the 20th century and not that measles was already disappearing. Penicillin, insulin, vitamin D, blood typing (allows transfusions of blood that has been typed and cross-matched), dialysis machines, and mechanical ventilators were all discovered in the early 1900s.

Despite how anti-vaccine charts try and mislead you, measles was still very deadly when the first measles vaccines were introduced.

If you notice though, the death rate for measles got stuck after the 1940s at about 0.2 to 0.3, even as modern medicine continued to advance. That’s about 300 to 500 measles deaths each year in the United States. This was after World War II and through the 1950s and early 1960s, hardly a time of poor hygiene or poor nutrition or when Americans were without access to medical care.

It took about 20 years for those deaths to start dropping again, and it took the coming of the measles vaccine to do it.

So if we stop vaccinating, we won’t get to 7,000 measles deaths a year again in the United States. Modern medicine has improved a great deal since 1900. We would eventually get to about 320 to 960 measles deaths a year though (using our current population of 320 million people and a measles death rate between 0.1 and 0.3).

Other Facts About Measles Deaths

People still die of measles.

What else do you need to know about measles deaths?

  • SSPE is caused by wild type measles. Vaccine strain measles has never been found in the brain tissue of anyone who has ever died of SSPE.
  • Although SSPE was first described by Dr. James R. Dawson, JR as a new type of epidemic encephalitis in 1933 (Dawson’s disease), that it is a late complication of a natural measles infection wasn’t discovered until much later.
  • People have recently died of measles in other industrial countries too. Basically anywhere there have been measles outbreaks, there have been measles deaths, including Canada, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and France, etc.
  • Worldwide, about 400 people die each and every day from measles.

The latest measles deaths we have been hearing about?

Dozens of infants, children, and adults, almost all unvaccinated have died in large outbreaks since the beginning of 2016 in Europe.

What To Know about Measles Deaths

Measles is still deadly, even in this era of modern medicine, sanitation and good nutrition.

More on Measles Deaths

Updated February 10, 2019

47 thoughts on “When Was the Last Measles Death in the United States?

      1. Update is that there were 72 deaths from measles in Europe in 2017. Add in those from SSPE and you will get into treble figures.


    1. 35k people a year die in car accidents. Way more then the scary 11 deaths from measles in the last 19 years. And I bet everyone petrified of measles and wanted to force vaccinate everyone gets in a car everyday with their kids.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The point about measles is that it is entirely preventable.
        But if you want to play the numbers game, I’ll bite… 600,000 die from cancer each year, so that’s “way more scary” than the 30,000 who die in car accidents, right?
        So to be logical, I expect you to start arguing that there should be no seatbelts, airbags, ABS, roll-bars, speed limits or any vehicle safety measures whatsoever, just because “more people die from cancer”.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Everyone’s on here throwing out ‘stats’. Stats that are unverified and a lot of likely estimates.

      Here’s a better question: can anyone provide even 1 link to a research paper that proves the efficacy of Vaccines? A paper that actually looks at long term effects of vaccines in a vaccinated population vs a non vaxxed?

      People often look at the impeccably healthy Amish – but let’s go deeper and look at a scientific research paper.

      Here’s a hint: you won’t find one.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. 7o,000 over 70 thousands people died in the us in2017 of fentanyl overdoses up from 35 thousand in 2016 how about we not give our children drugs from birth on. If you have the right to kill babies after their born. We should have the right to not pump ours full of animal cells and cells from the babies you kill.


    4. 7o,000 over 70 thousands people died in the us in2017 of fentanyl overdoses up from 35 thousand in 2016 how about we not give our children drugs from birth on. If you have the right to kill babies after their born. We should have the right to not pump ours full of animal cells and cells from the babies you kill.


  1. I have a question: how can the reduction of measles deaths be related to the vaccine? Measles related deaths would be counted upon individuals’ contracting measles. The reduction in deaths attributed to measles can’t be credited to the vaccine.
    The rate of infection went from 3.1/100K in 1935 to .2/100K in 1940 (or thereabouts). That’s 30 years before the vaccine. Before we freak out about the latest outbreak, let’s take a moment and consider the treatments and possible mitigations against spread.


    1. So deb, why the debate? It’s confusing to me. Why did the deaths go down?
      So why the vaccinations?
      What do I do?
      Can u please guide me?


      1. Lies usually are confusing. Hopefully I can clarify this for you.

        The article states: “1963 – first measles vaccine licensed” and then a gradual drop in measles related deaths (doesn’t mention number of vaccinated people – meaning we are missing any link between BEING vaccinated and protection from getting the measles. We are supposed to assume that). What is missing are the other inventions that came out. IV fluids became widely available in the 1950’s, acetaminophen/paracetamol was invented in 1956, and ibuprofen in 1962. Between the ’60’s and ’80’s, these fever reducers became more popular. (Not that they are perfect either.) High fevers and dehydration are usually what cause most complications in these types of diseases. We can now treat them at home with things like over the counter fever reducers and Pedialite. Seriously. All three of my kids are getting over the flu. They are 3, 5, and 8 years old. They slept a lot and didn’t eat much for a few days. However, they are recovering very well. I kept them home to avoid contact with anyone and I stayed away from people too in case I carried it. (I work from home and they are home schooled, so that was possible for us. I know that’s not the case for even most people.) I had the flu every year as a kid and my parents treated it the same way – fluids and fever reducers. (And I was fully vaccinated for everything on time as a kid – I was also sick all the time. Ear infections, flu, strep, bronchitis, seasonal allergies, digestive problems, etc. Some of these are listed side effects in the vaccine pamphlets. This is the first time any of my kids have ever had a fever or ear infection.)

        The other thing that causes the most severe problems and is most likely to result in death from these diseases is encephalitis. However, this can usually be treated with antibiotics, which weren’t widely available until the 1940’s; this is where you see the biggest drop in measles cases – before the vaccine was invented. Severe brain swelling can now be treated by removing a piece of the skull in an emergency situation. (Also not ideal, but very rare). I couldn’t find the information on when this procedure was invented, but the first brain surgery wasn’t done until the early 1900’s – shortly after anesthesia and hand washing became a thing. And of course, brain surgery is complicated, so I’m sure the death rates were high in the beginning. Not to mention, they probably wouldn’t have even known about the brain swelling since CT Scans weren’t invented until 1972 (and x-rays aren’t great at seeing brain swelling). Not that these treatments are ideal or the only option, but they do usually address the problem at hand and side effects are temporary or less severe compared to death and even compared to some of the side effects caused by vaccines, like paralysis (not to mention, who knows what kind of other things they put or could put in there – it’s not like they have a history of transparency).


    2. Measles deaths still are a function of the number of people who get measles.
      >>”The rate of infection went from 3.1/100K in 1935 to .2/100K in 1940s”<<
      No, that is the population mortality rate, as the article explained.
      The INFECTION rate is the number of CASES of measles infection in the population. This rate has been constant, as before vaccination, almost everyone got measles.
      Deaths were declining because of factors like better quality medical care, antibiotics to treat secondary infective complications, better nutrition etc. However, as the charts show, deaths had plateaued out at around 400 per year in the 1950s, because despite optimal nutrition, good medical care there will still be a proportion of measles cases who get untreatable, fatal complications such as encephalitis.
      But since vaccination in the 1960s reduced cases to nearly zero, obviously deaths will drop to near zero also.


    1. No, what he is saying is that with universal vaccination, there will be no measles cases, so of course then you have no deaths. Didn’t you bother to read the article?


      1. Well that’s completely false. That argument assumes a 100% efficacy rate in the vaccine, a percentage that has never even been dreamed of by any vaccine. The flu vaccine, even by the CDC’s own numbers (which are highly suspect to say the least), rarely breaks the 50-60% mark in efficacy.


  2. These are the known side effects of the MMR vaccine reported by the actual vaccine manufacturer. These numbers are in the thousands!! The number of “outbreaks” of measles compared to deaths is less than 1%. Yet the risk of side effects and other complications is much higher. Why is this such an argument? Why are people so quick to give up their rights because some “higher authority” says we should?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The CDC states that in the decade before 1963 there were 3-4 million measles infections, only approx. 500,000 reported. Of this there were between 450-500 deaths, that’s about 1 in 8,000. However, they go on to say that 1-2 deaths occur out of 1,000 infections. That means that if there were 4, 000,000 infections there should be 4,000 to 8,000 deaths, not 450-500. And as stated above there were 380 deaths in 1960 and 276 in 1965. If you check the VIERS web site there was 108 awards for measles vaccine deaths between 2005 and 2015 and they estimate that this figure may actually be only 1% of the actual reality. In other words there may be over 10,000 measles vaccine related deaths in the USA over that 10 year period. Let’s see, that’s over 1000 a year. Looks like the measles vaccine is killing far more now, than 3-4 million who were infected in 1960 that resulted in only 380 deaths. Let’s also look at the fact that Autism at that time was over 1 in 15,000 and now below 1 in 50. Not that vaccines may be the sole cause of autism. What about increased allergies and other auto immune diseases? Maybe injecting poison and aborted fetal tissue into our bodies are not a very good idea. Too bad you cannot sue the pharmaceutical companies for vaccine injury. Wow, real incentive to develop a safe product.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Quite a few errors of fact and interpretation there…
      The CDC states the number of NOTIFIED cases were 500,000 per year and the number of NOTIFIED deaths were 500, giving a case fatality rate for reported infections of 1 in 1000.
      But that doesn’t account for unreported cases and deaths, so the true figure would be roughly 1000 deaths in 3.5 million cases (a CFR of one in 3,500 cases). In Europe, the REPORTED case fatality is just below one in 1,000 (72 deaths in 80,000 cases in 2017) but again there will be under-reporting, and the true CFR is more likely to be one in 3 or 4 thousand.
      The CDC doesn’t make it clear sometimes which figures are based just on reported cases and which on estimates. However, it is clearly wrong to derive a case fatality rate based on REPORTED deaths and ESTIMATED cases as you have done to arrive at a CFR of one in 1000.

      The VAERS data are not verified as deaths due to vaccine [and VAERS is not a database of “awards”] and VAERS data should not be used to estimate rates of complications, as the website makes very clear.
      Independent analysis of reports shows the majority are unrelated to vaccine, and only 3% were “definitely caused” by the vaccine, so there is a lot of over-reporting going on, as well as under-reporting. We also know from studies that serious vaccine reactions are far more likely to be reported than minor ones. One study showed over 50% of reactions like seizures or paralysis were reported, but fewer than 5% of reactions like rashes.
      None of these “108 deaths” are medically confirmed as being due to vaccine, and even if they were, that would amount to fewer than 10 per year (while without vaccination there would still be 300-900 deaths per year from measles (as described in the article).


      1. Please put source link from CDC on the number you provided. Would like to read the paper on that.



    2. Please provide source links to the material you are quoting from because why make people dig for the information you have already looked up. Makes it look like you are just making statements.



  4. And how many recorded deaths from Measles vaccine? What over 400 in the US alone!! And 10,000s of injuries??! And not counting those 95% that go unrecorded or are listed as SIDS??!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The two charts of measles over the 20th century and zoomed in to show a drop in the 1960’s are not the same. One is measles deaths, the other is measles cases. There were fewer than 5 deaths per 100k as early as 1930 per the long term chart.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As of January 2, 2019, there have been 1,258 claims filed so far in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for 82 deaths and 1,176 injuries that occurred after measles vaccination. Of that number, the U.S. Court of Claims administering the VICP has compensated 483 children and adults, who have filed claims for measles vaccine injury


    1. American Population – 325.7 million
      Percent vaccinated against MMR – 91.1%
      Number vaccinated – 296.7 million
      Number of verifiable claims – 483
      Percent of vaccinated people “injured” by vaccination – .00016279% or 1.6 per million people

      African Population – 1.216 billion
      Percent vaccinated against MMR – 77%
      Percentage of people in Africa that DIED due to measles since vaccination rate is so low – .0030% or 30 per million
      Number of DEATHS – 36,000

      To vaccinate or not? Hmmmm, tough choice.


  7. This article might be the best case for not using the measles vaccine that I have ever seen. Dr. Lannelli establishes very well that the measles vaccine could only be responsible for .2 of the 13.3 -> 0.0 measles rate decline. Then he proceeds to make the absurd closing point that not vaccinating would cause us to “eventually get to about 320 to 960 measles deaths a year,” which assumes no medical advancement made between 1960 and 2019 could possibly help lower the measles rate. How bizarre.


    1. Again, a woeful misunderstanding and interpretation of the article and the data…
      Measles vaccine is responsible for the near-elimination of measles, and with measles eliminated, deaths will also disappear. Before vaccination there were 450-500 reported deaths per year. These would drop to zero if there was no measles. What is so hard to understand about that?

      Regarding medical advances to treat measles, the major improvements came in supportive care (higher quality medical care, availability of intensive care for ventilating patients with pneumonia, antibiotic use to treat secondary bacterial complications of measles) in the mid 19th century.
      The main problem faced by medical science in dealing with measles is that measles itself has no specific antiviral treatment available. No current antivirals are effective, and none are in development that have any promise of being effective. The main reason people died in the 1950s and 1960s was because they developed measles encephalitis, which is often fatal and affects one in 1,000 measles cases. There is no known treatment or way to prevenet this. Then there is the delayed and invariably fatal complication of SSPE, which affects between one in 7,500 -100,000 cases of measles, dependent on the age of acquisition.

      The fact that medical advancement has not been able to reduce the complication rate for measles* or reduce the fatality associated with encephalitis is unfortunate, but it is a reality, and not “bizarre”.

      *The exception to this is in patients who are malnourished, where vitamin A supplementation helps reduce complications, primarily in the third world setting.


      1. Your statement is exactly why it is so hard to understand: if you want to comment relative to ALL of the data in this article, then the graphs clearly show the dramatic reduction in deaths due to measles *before* the vaccine was introduced and the incidence of measles was falling as well (before the vaccine).

        Also, ALL of the data collected purposely does NOT correlate other issue – side effects – due to the vaccine (and for the sake of limiting that topic let’s just restrict it to the measles vaccine): doctors are actively and strongly discouraged from ever reporting any related side effects due a vaccination and they amazingly are always attributing issues to other causes and *never* the vaccine, which is just an incredible cognitive dissonance or willful ignorance of outcomes. The CDC does not collect this information. The pharma companies are absolved of responsibility for negative outcomes by way of extensive lobbying for regulations in their favor.

        And, you seem to ignore the proven cases where these companies have purposely manipulated results and lied about issues and complications. One company was even shown to have taken a vaccine off the shelves in the USA due to verifiable problems with the vaccine, and rather than destroy the vaccine, they sent it off to Africa (unchanged) to make more money (and hurt more people).

        Vaccines, scientifically, make sense, but ignoring the side-effects, dangers, and long-term effects is irresponsible, and anyone supporting that is irresponsible.


  8. MMR, Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) is a blended vaccine. A good start would be to separate out these vaccines to individual injections at least 1 to 2 weeks apart, with no systemic reactions.
    The vaccines used in the U.S. are different than those used in Europe.
    A different production manor and base content.
    I have 3 children all received their vaccination, MMR included. We elected to obtain separate vaccines. My children experienced ZERO problems from the individual vaccines.


  9. Seems to be good information, however not comforting or statistically sound to say cases of SSPE are “likely” attributed to previous measles outbreaks. This terminology sounds like opinion hidden in a statistical article. What research is behind this correlation? Thanks in advance for the transparency.


      1. I agree. If people are to put statements about the article they need to either use what is listed in the article as evidence or provide an external source.

        Also it should be noted that anyone can put anyone else’s name on a public post. You could be Randy or Jim the keyboard SJW.

        It is a nice touch that you would put a real person from Pfizer on here. I would like to think you are the actual Richard Friedman as it would be really cool that you would be reading the comments on a random article not funded by Pfizer.


  10. This article absolutely validated my decision to not vaccinate. I am 100% convinced that the measles vaccine is worthless. There is NO way to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the measles disappeared because of the vaccine. I’m a numbers person. The numbers were going down dramatically. Statistically on a chart, the vaccine didn’t do a darn thing. Fabulous article.


  11. Fascinating information. How many kids who’ve had measles go on to get SSPE? Or is it only the wild type ever? That was kind of a fuzzy point not explicitly made.


  12. Excellent article. I like that it includes verifiable facts and helps to make an intelligent argument. You are not just making a declaration.

    I am curious as to why it is always the unvaccinated that are the cause to get vaccinated people sick? If the unvaccinated and the vaccinated alike can become sick is it not logical to understand that measles could be and is spread from people traveling to other countries and becoming infected and bringing it back infecting others? Just blaming the unvaccinated is disingenuous and misleading. If the unvaccinated are the only ones who can bring it back into the US and the vaccinated cannot then the vaccinated cannot become infected by the unvaccinated when they bring it into the country.

    Also I am not saying people shouldn’t vaccinate. Just saying that the statement about the unvaccinated is not factual or logical. If you are a parent and want to vaccinate, do so, if you don’t think it is needed that is, and should be, your choice as well. The numbers presented in this article show that the majority do vaccinate and there is no epidemic in any of the developed countries. We should vaccinate where there is an epidemic and not force an otherwise healthy group of people to take precautions about something that is clearly not as deadly as crossing the street.


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