Giving Compass' Take:

• Maggie Koerth-Baker explains that even though it is possible to predict likely locations for measles outbreaks the CDC does not publicly release predictions. 

• How can funders help to advance predictions and models that can help communities prepare for and avoid outbreaks? 

• Learn about the counties where the anti-vaccine movement thrives

At the end of February, a team of researchers submitted a paper to the medical journal The Lancet that predicted the top 25 U.S. counties most at risk for measles in 2019. Now, almost halfway through what is on track to be the nation’s worst year for measles outbreaks since 1992, their study is looking rather prescient. Of the counties named in the paper, published in May, 14 have had cases of measles. At least 12 counties on the list are adjacent to counties that have ended up with measles cases this year. This includes two of the counties in the largest ongoing outbreak: Nearly 500 confirmed cases in Queens and Kings counties, New York.

But that was not what’s special about this forecast. In the 19 years since measles was eliminated1in the U.S., experts say domestic outbreaks have followed a reliable pattern that should be easily traceable in epidemiological data. Everybody knows the pattern exists, so it’s no surprise that someone could use it to make predictions about where measles is most likely to turn up. Instead, experts say, the county list is notable because of who made it. It came from independent researchers, and not the government, which collects the data.

The CDC told me they have the counties and ZIP codes where cases of measles have happened and information on which countries contributed the spark — but that the information is not compiled or easily available in one place. They declined to comment on why. That’s a problem, Hotez told me. More-detailed maps that track pockets of low-vaccination rates, vaccine exemptions and the countries each outbreak comes from could be used to help stave off outbreaks, something that’s becoming particularly important as outbreaks increase and the U.S. faces losing its status as a country where measles has been eliminated.

Read the full article about predicting measles outbreaks by Maggie Koerth-Baker at FiveThirtyEight.