Timeline of measles

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This is a timeline of measles, describing major events, such as vaccine releases, historic epidemics, and major organizations.

Big picture

Year/period Key developments
<1963 (Pre-vaccine Era) Seven to eight million children are thought to have died from measles each year before the vaccine was introduced. Before the vaccine, epidemic cycles occur every 2 to 3 years, and virtually everyone experienced measles illness during childhood. Lifelong immunity is provided by natural infection.[1][2]
1963 onward The 1960s mark a change in the history of measles, with the invention and release of the first vaccine in the United States. Major measles control programs start to be conducted in a number of countries from both the developed and developing world, which result in a dramatic decline in incidence of the disease.[2]
2000–2015 In this last period, measles vaccination has prevented an estimated 20.3 million deaths. In 2015, about 85% of the world's children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services, up from 73% in 2000. However, measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.[3]

Full timeline

Evolution of number of measles reported cases between 1980 and 2015.[4]
Year/period Type of event Event Location
854 CE – 925 CE Scientific development Persian polymath Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi provides the first scientific description of measles-like syndrome.[5][6] Iran
1492 Epidemic Europeans first arrive to Americas and introduce diphtheria, influenza, measles, mumps, scarlet fever, smallpox, tertian malaria, typhoid, typhus, and yellow fever. From then on, it is estimated that the size of the indigenous population shall be reduced between 50 and 90%.[7] Americas
1529 Epidemic The Spanish introduce measles to Cuba, killing two out of three natives.[8] Cuba
1533 Epidemic Measles epidemic breaks out in Nicaragua soon after Francisco Pizarro’s third expedition to Peru.[9] Nicaragua
1657 Epidemic The earliest recorded measles epidemic breaks out in Colonial America.[10][11] United States
1676 Scientific development English physician Thomas Sydenham documents measles infection during an epidemic in London. Sydenham successfully distinguishes smallpox and scarlet fever from measles.[12][13] United Kingdom
1693 English colonial administrator in Virginia, Edmund Andros issues a proclamation for a "day of humiliation and prayer" in the hope of halting measles epidemic.[8] United States
1757 Scientific development Scottish physician Francis Home demonstrates that measles is caused by an infectious agent in the blood of patients.[6] United Kingdom
1846 Scientific development Danish physiologist Peter Ludvig Panum, during an epidemic, describes the incubation period of measles and lifelong immunity after recovery from the disease.[14][15] Denmark (Faroe Islands)
1850–1859 Epidemic Measles kills one fifth of Hawaii's population within a decade.[7] United States (Hawaii)
1870–1879 Epidemic Measles kills about one fifth of Fidji's indigenous population within a decade.[7] Fidji
1911 Epidemic First Introduction of measles virus to the Polynesian island of Rotuma. Most residents of apopulation of approximately 2,600 are exposed to the virus for the first time. The official mortality register documents 491 deaths for 1911, an extremely high figure for the total population. This extreme mortality due to measles is found to be typical of isolated populations after first encounters with measles.[16] Polynesia (Rotuma)
1916 Scientific development French researchers Charles Nicolle and Ernest Conseil perform the first successful immunization against measles by means of convalescent serum. Nicolle and Conseil show that measles patients have specific protective antibodies in their blood, then demonstrate that serum from measles patients could be used to protect against the disease.[17] France
1951 Epidemic A traveler from Denmark first introduces measles virus into the Inuit population of southern Greenland. Only five out of 4,262 people escape the disease, with a final attack rate of 99.9%. Quick efforts made in Denmark to provide gamma globulin (a type of blood protein—in this case, rich in antibodies) help decrease the fatality rate. Overall, 1.8% of the population died during this epidemic.[16] Greenland
1954 Scientific development American biomedical scientist John Franklin Enders and American physician Thomas C. Peebles succeed in isolating measles virus in 13 year old David Edmonston.[6][18] United States (Boston)
1963 Scientific development Nine years after initial isolation in cell culture of the measles virus, American biomedical scientist John Franklin Enders and colleagues transform their (Edmonston-B strain) into a vaccine and license it as the first live attenuated vaccine.[6][15][18] Along with improved developments within this decade, the vaccine has an immediate impact in disease incidence and mortality rates upon its implementation.[19] United States
1968 Scientific development American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman develops a weak measles vaccine. This vaccine is estimated to prevent 1 million deaths worldwide every year.[6][20] United States
1978–1982 Program launch The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets goal to eliminate measles from the United States by 1982. The goal is not met, but widespread use of measles vaccine drastically reduces the disease rate. By 1981, the number of reported measles cases is 80% less compared with the previous year.[6] United States
1996 Program launch Measles control strategy is implemented by 7 southern African countries. It is adapted from previous strategies that led to measles elimination in the Americas. Nationwide measles vaccination campaigns are conducted. As a result, historic low measles incidence in these countries are achieved, as well as virtual elimination of related deaths. Also, regional accelerated measles control efforts throughout Africa are prompted.[1] Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe
1997 Epidemic Last large measles outbreak occurring in Americas breaks out in Sao Paulo. Over 42,000 cases are recorded. It is caused by an accumulation of susceptible young children.[1] Brazil
1997 Program launch The Eastern Mediterranean Regional office of World Health Organisation sets goal to eliminate measles by 2010. Though overall measles cases declined, complete elimination has not been achieved.[19] Middle East, North Africa
1998 British team led by Andrew Wakefield publish paper claiming evidence of measles virus in the digestive systems of autistic children. Wakefield suggests a relationship between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism, recommending that the combination MMR vaccine be suspended in favor of single-disease vaccinations given separately over time. Due to public concern, vaccination rates in England drop well below the level required for herd immunity to measles. As a result, measles cases begin to rise. While 56 cases are confirmed in Wales and England in 1998, 1,348 will be confirmed by 2008.[21][22] United Kingdom
2000 Achievement Following a highly effective vaccination program and better measles control in the Americas region, measles is declared eliminated (absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the United States.[6][8] United States
2001 Organization The Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&R Initiative) is launched as a global partnership. Led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF and WHO, the purpose of M&R is to achieve measles and rubella elimination in at least 5 WHO regions by 2020.[3][23]
2007 Epidemic Measles epidemic breaks out in Japan. In order to contain the disease, a number of universities and schools close, sending more than 160,000 students home.[19][24] Japan
2008 Epidemic 134 cases of measles are reported in the United States, the most cases in a year since 1996. Among the infected, more than 90% have not been vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.[21] United States
2010 Program launch The World Health Assembly establishes 3 milestones towards the future eradication of measles to be achieved by 2015:
  • Increase routine coverage with the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) by more than 90% nationally and more than 80% in every district or equivalent administrative unit for children aged 1 year.
  • Reduce and maintain annual measles incidence to less than 5 cases per million.
  • Reduce estimated measles mortality by more than 95% from the 2000 estimate.[3]
2012 Program launch The Measles & Rubella Initiative launches the Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan 2012-2020, with the following goals to achieve in 2015 and 2020:

2015 goals (not achieved):[3]

  • To reduce global measles deaths by at least 95% compared with 2000 levels.
  • To achieve regional measles and rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) elimination goals.

2020 goals:

  • To achieve measles and rubella elimination in at least 5 WHO regions.[3]
2012 Publication Australian author and anti-vaccine activist Stephanie Messenger publishes Melanie's Marvelous Measles, a book which argues that contracting measles is beneficial to health, and that vaccines are ineffective. In 2015 the book came to attention after the Disneyland measles outbreak begins during December 2014, and provoked criticism because measles is responsible for thousands of deaths every year.[25][26] Australia
2013 Report The World Health Organization estimates 145,700 deaths globally from measles in 2013.[15]
2016 Achievement The Americas region is declared free of endemic measles by the Pan American Health Organization. It is the first of the six WHO regions to eliminate transmission of measles.[21] Americas

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Goodson, James L.; Masresha, Balcha G.; Wannemuehler, Kathleen; Uzicanin, Amra; Cochi, Stephen. "Changing Epidemiology of Measles in Africa". doi:10.1093/infdis/jir129. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ludlow M, McQuaid S, Milner D, de Swart RL, Duprex WP (January 2015). "Pathological consequences of systemic measles virus infection". The Journal of pathology. 235 (2): 253–65. PMID 25294240. doi:10.1002/path.4457. Retrieved 4 January 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Measles - Key facts". WHO. Retrieved 4 January 2017. 
  4. "Global and regional immunization profile" (PDF). ourworldindata.org. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  5. Furuse, Yuki; Suzuki, Akira; Oshitani, Hitoshi. "Origin of measles virus: divergence from rinderpest virus between the 11th and 12th centuries". PMC 2838858Freely accessible. doi:10.1186/1743-422X-7-52. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 "Measles History". Measles History. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Migration and Disease". archive.org. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Cowart, Leigh. "Measles makes its mark all over again: One of humanity's oldest foes is back on the increase". The Independent. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  9. Cook, Noble David; Lovell, William George. Secret Judgments of God: Old World Disease in Colonial Spanish America. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  10. "U.S. Epidemics 1657 – 1918". usgennet.org. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  11. "History of vaccines". historyofvaccines.org. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  12. "Measles". historyofvaccines.org. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  13. Creighton, Charles. A History of Epidemics in Britain, Volume 2. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  14. Emerson, Haven. "Panum on Measles: Observations Made During the Epidemic of Measles on the Faroe Islands in the Year 1846 (A translation from the Danish)". PMC 1530953Freely accessible. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 4 January 2017. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Shanks, G. Dennis; Lee, Seung-Eun; Howard, Alan; Brundage, John F. "Extreme Mortality After First Introduction of Measles Virus to the Polynesian Island of Rotuma, 1911". doi:10.1093/aje/kwq504. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  17. KARELITZ, SAMUEL; LEVIN, SAMUEL. "MEASLES PROPHYLAXISBY USE OF CONVALESCENT SERUM, ADULT BLOOD OR SERUM". doi:10.1001/archpedi.1927.04130150047004. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Katz, SL. "John F. Enders and measles virus vaccine--a reminiscence.". PMID 19198559. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Measles: Epidemiology and transmission". uptodate.com. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  20. "Maurice R. Hilleman Dies; Created Vaccines". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "History of vaccines". historyofvaccines.org. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  22. "Impact Factor: Can a Scientific Retraction Change Public Opinion?". Scientific American. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  23. "Featured Content". measlesrubellainitiative.org. Retrieved 4 January 2017. 
  24. "Japanese measles epidemic brings campuses to standstill". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  25. "Melanie's Marvelous Measles: the detrimental power of anti-vaccination rhetoric". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  26. "Anti-vaccination book with Roald Dahl-inspired title fuels outrage in wake of measles outbreak". oregonlive.com. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 

Category:Measles Category:Medicine timelines