Infectious Disease

Local and state health departments have the legal authority and responsibility to ensure and protect the health and safety of their residents. As communities around the country are responding to the current measles outbreak, our members know not only how to stop the spread of the disease but also how to prevent it in the first place.


City health departments play an essential role in stopping the spread of infectious disease, as the United States has seen with recent outbreaks in the Ebola Virus, the Zika virus, and measles. Strengthening cities' ability to respond to diseases that spread more rapidly than ever due to more frequent travel and increased exposure, is especially important now.

Action on America's Measles Outbreak

Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000 but has seen a resurgence in recent years. In 2014, the CDC confirmed 644 diagnosed cases of measles in 27 states, a substantial increase over previous years. The resurgence of measles represents the United State’s increased vulnerability to re-introduction of the disease from abroad due to declining vaccination rates. 

Before the vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1963, millions of measles cases were reported each year with thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths each year. 

Measles is considered the most contagious disease on earth and is often deadly to children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. The classic symptom of measles is a painful full-body rash, which is accompanied by intense fever, coughing, and watery eyes. Complications include pneumonia, ear infections, permanent hearing loss or damage, encephalitis, or death. Pregnant women with measles are more likely to miscarry, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby. The disease spreads very easily, but is preventable.

Below, watch videos of the heads of our member cities' health departments as they explain how to stop the spread of measles in their city.

Interim Executive Director and Medical Director Huy Nguyen from the Boston Public Health Commission

Health Officer Vinny Taneja from the Tarrant County Health Department

Health Officer Patrice Harris, MD of Fulton County Public Health

Health Commissioner Leana Wen, MD, MS of the Baltimore City Health Department

Health Officer Jeff Gunzenhauser, MD of Los Angeles County Public Health

 Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, MD, MPH of San Diego County Public Health Services 

Director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Bob England, MD

Interim Health Officer Jeff Duchin, MD of Seattle & King County Public Health

BCHC Recommendations

  • Parents need to vaccinate their children, with exemptions where medically appropriate. 
  • Health agencies need to create and/or maintain robust state registries to track vaccinations. Local departments need to be able to retrieve data in a timely manner to effectively address gaps in immunization coverage. 
  • Adequate funding must be allocated to local and state agencies in order to create and maintain systems that effectively prevent and contain outbreaks. Routinely cutting public health funding is an annual affair, and relying on emergency preparedness dollars once a crisis strikes is inefficient and leads to undue suffering. 
  • State and local health agencies should work with policymakers in their jurisdictions to close or minimize existing exemption loopholes. The BCHC advocates for federal leadership and guidance in developing standard exemption procedures that discourage parents from claiming exemptions. 
  • Laws and regulations protecting vulnerable individuals from being exposed to infectious disease, such as requiring proof of vaccination to attend public schools, must be enforced by local authorities.

For our full recommendations, please read our press release here.

Where can I get vaccinated? 

Find a registered vaccine provider here

For More Information

BCHC Coalition News and News From BCHC Jurisdictions

NACCHO Policy Statements:

Information about Measles from the CDC: 

HHS short factsheet, "Protect Your Child From Measles," with information on who needs to get vaccinated, when, and where.