Measles Outbreak in U.S. Breaks History – Raises Concern

by | Last updated Jun 9, 2023 | Published on Apr 29, 2019 | Medical Coding

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It has been nearly 20 years since measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. Now, it has made a comeback. According to the report from CBS News, starting January of this year, 22 states have experienced a total of 695 cases of measles. Earlier, the annual number of cases had ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 667 in 2014. This disease, caused by a highly contagious virus can spread easily through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Infectious diseases such as measles must be accurately and extensively documented using the correct medical codes. Comprehensive documentation creates a clear record of the diagnosis and treatment provided. Medical coding companies assist physicians treating this condition with accurate documentation.

Measles is an acute viral respiratory illness with symptoms such as fever, malaise, cough, Coryza (rhinitis), Conjunctivitis (pink eye), Pathognomonic enanthema (Koplick’s spots) and Maculopapular rash. The condition may also lead to serious illnesses including diarrhea, ear infection and brain damage.

This disease is more likely to spread and cause outbreaks in communities where groups of people are unvaccinated. Common complications from measles include otitis media, bronchopneumonia, laryngotracheobronchitis, and diarrhea. People who are at high risk for severe illness and complications from measles include infants and children aged less than 5 years, adults aged more than 20 years, pregnant women and those with weak immune systems.

Though rapid blood tests are available to detect whether a person is immune based on the level of measles antibodies, these tests are not fully reliable. Though there is no particular treatment for measles, medical care helps relieve symptoms and address complications such as infections.

Vaccination – The Only Way to Prevent Measles

Measles can be prevented by the MMR vaccine, which is only licensed for use in children 12 months through 12 years of age. The CDC recommends the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) and Varicella (VAR) vaccines, or the combination Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Varicella (MMRV) vaccine, for children 1-12 years of age, given in two separate doses: the first dose at 12-15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years of age. While one dose of MMR vaccine is approximately 93% effective at preventing measles; two doses are approximately 97% effective. The second dose is administered to address primary vaccine failure.

Reuters recently reported that with the current measles outbreak, public health experts are concerned about immunity in adults in the United States and they recommend a new vaccination dose for those adults who were vaccinated against measles decades ago. This new vaccine will be depending on when they received the shot and their exposure risk.

Coding Measles

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. Medicare prescription drug plans also cover MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella) vaccines. Medical coders must make sure to file medical records with accurate codes –


  • 90705 Measles virus vaccine, live, for subcutaneous use
  • 90706 Rubella virus vaccine, live, for subcutaneous use
  • 90707 Measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine (MMR), live, for subcutaneous use
  • 90708 Measles and rubella virus vaccine, live, for subcutaneous use
  • 90710 Measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine (MMRV), live, for subcutaneous use


  • B05.0 Measles complicated by encephalitis
  • B05.1 Measles complicated by meningitis
  • B05.2 Measles complicated by pneumonia
  • B05.3 Measles complicated by otitis media
  • B05.4 Measles with intestinal complications
  • B05.81 Measles keratitis and keratoconjunctivitis
  • B05.89 Other measles complications
  • B05.9 Measles without mention of complication.

Rubella or German measles is classified under category B06 and includes the following codes:

  • B06.0 Rubella with neurological complications
  • B06.8 Rubella with other complications
  • B06.9 Rubella without complication

Missed measles vaccinations are also a factor contributing to the global rise of this illness. UNICEF has highlighted that over 20 million children missed vaccinations worldwide in the last 8 years, leading to global measles outbreaks. CDC recommends that people who are living in or traveling to any such outbreak areas should check their vaccination status and consider getting a new dose. Physicians serving in affected communities are also advised to confirm that all their patients are up to date with MMR vaccine requirements. Professional medical coding services are available to help busy physicians meet their billing and coding tasks, while they focus on patient care.

Rajeev Rajagopal

Rajeev Rajagopal, the President of OSI, has a wealth of experience as a healthcare business consultant in the United States. He has a keen understanding of current medical billing and coding standards.

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