AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Thursday showing that measles cases increased by nearly 20% globally in 2022, following a steady decline in measles vaccination coverage in recent years. 

Compared to 2021, deaths globally have increased by 43%, according to the CDC.

“The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we’ve seen in the past few years,” said John Vertefeuille, director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division, in a press release. “Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths.”  

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can be spread when a person sneezes or coughs. The virus is so contagious that if one person becomes infected, around 90% of not immune people around them will also become infected. 

The virus is preventable through two doses of the measles vaccine. In 2022, there were 33 million children from around the world not completely vaccinated. 

Dr. Varun Shetty, Chief State Epidemiologist for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were out of their routines, and vaccination rates dipped. 

“We’ve since started to rebound from that, but we’ve still got a way to go,” Shetty said. “We’ve got a lot of room now to improve, and reports like [CDC’s] with messaging are going to play a big role in moving the needle.”

While measles is highly contagious and, in some cases, deadly, because of vaccination rates in the U.S. and Texas, it tends to be fairly rare. 

Shetty said there were no reported measles cases in Texas from 2020 to 2022 and only three cases in 2023. 

“Measles is a very rare disease to be reported [and] we want to keep it that way,” he said. “We want to make sure that people are aware that it’s possible to get this disease – it can lead to really severe outcomes – and there are ways to prevent it,” Shetty continued.