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US measles cases at highest level since elimination in 2000, CDC says

The CDC is reporting 695 cases of measles from 22 states as of Wednesday. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated from this country in 2000.

The states that have reported cases to CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.

As of April 23, a total of 14 confirmed measles cases have been reported in NJ for 2019, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks – one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018. The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000.  The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States. 

CDC says stopping these measles outbreaks is a priority and they’re working 24/7 to protect Americans from this contagious disease. Vaccination is the best way to protect against measles. The overwhelming majority of parents today choose to protect their children with vaccines, and we’ve seen high and stable immunization rates in the U.S. for several years.

The recent outbreaks started through importation. Measles is imported when an unvaccinated traveler visits a country where there is widespread measles transmission, gets infected with measles, and returns to the United States and exposes people in a community who are not vaccinated. When measles is imported into a community with a highly vaccinated population, outbreaks either don’t happen or are usually small. However, once measles is in an under-vaccinated community, it becomes difficult to control the spread of the disease.   

The World Health Organization reported this month that there has been a 300% increase in the number of measles cases worldwide compared with the first 3 months of 2018.  That increase is part of a global trend seen over the past few years as other countries struggle with declining vaccination rates and may be exacerbating the situation here. 

A significant factor contributing to the outbreaks in New York is misinformation in the communities about the safety of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine. Some organizations are deliberately targeting these communities with inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines. CDC continues to encourage parents to speak to their family’s healthcare provider about the importance of vaccination. CDC also encourages local leaders to provide accurate, scientific-based information to counter misinformation.

“All Americans would be safer and healthier if we received measles vaccines on the recommended schedule. Next week is a significant opportunity to educate ourselves on the importance of vaccines, as we mark National Infant Immunization Week. The Department of Health and Human Services will undertake a comprehensive campaign to reinforce the message that vaccines are safe and effective ways to protect your children, your family, yourself, and your neighbors,” Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

For more information about who should get the measles vaccine, click here.

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By: Jay Edwards Follow on Twitter | Like on Facebook

(Photo: Courtesy CDC)

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