The United States registered 78 new cases of measles last week, to a total of 704 cases so far this year, the highest number in a quarter of a century, federal health officials said on Monday.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The number of measles cases in the United States has reached a 25-year peak, fueled by widespread misinformation about the vaccine that can prevent the disease, federal health officials said on Monday.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 704 cases on April 26, an increase of 1.3% since the most recent record of 695 on Wednesday. The vast majority of cases occurred in children who did not receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which gives immunity to the disease, officials said.
"The suffering we are seeing today is totally preventable," US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on Monday. "We know that vaccines are safe because they are among some of the most studied medical products we have."
A vocal track of American parents refuses to vaccinate their children believing, contrary to scientific evidence, that the ingredients in them can cause autism or other disorders.
About 22 states reported cases of the extremely contagious and sometimes deadly disease. None of the victims of the recent outbreak died but 3 percent contracted pneumonia and 9 percent were hospitalized for complications of the disease, CDC director Robert Redfield said on Monday.
US President Donald Trump urged Americans last week to vaccinate to prevent the spread of measles by changing the course of his comments in 2014 when he expressed doubts about providing government-recommended vaccines for children.
"Vaccines are so important, it's really happening now," Trump said on Friday.
The current outbreak is concentrated in New York City, where officials have said more than 390 cases have been reported since October, mostly among children from Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn. Most of the cases recently registered were in New York and Los Angeles, officials said on Monday.
The national outbreak has increased from 82 people in 2018 and more than 40 people in 2019 brought measles to the United States from other countries, most often from Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines, federal officials said.
Although the virus was eliminated in the country in 2000, which means that it is no longer present throughout the year, outbreaks still occur via travelers from countries where measles is still common, says the CDC.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; editing by Scott Malone, Tom Brown and Bill Berkrot)