US records 695 measles cases, most since elimination in 2000
NEW YORK, April 25, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – The United States recorded 695 cases
of measles in 2019, the most of any year since the disease was declared
eliminated in 2000, health authorities said Wednesday.
“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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in
The resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly-contagious disease is linked
to a growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations — which the World
Health Organization has identified as a major global health threat.
Outbreaks in the United States have mostly been confined to tight-knit
communities where vaccination rates are lower than the national average of
more than 90 percent.
People infected with the virus brought it to the United States from Israel
and Ukraine and passed it on to members of their communities, many of whom
had not been vaccinated.
New York and Washington State have been the main areas affected but cases
have been found in 22 states.
“A significant factor contributing to the outbreaks in New York is
misinformation in the communities about the safety of the
measles/mumps/rubella vaccine,” CDC said.
In a separate statement confirming the new record, Health and Human
Services Secretary Alex Azar said “measles vaccines are among the most
extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been
firmly established over many years.”
He added that next week, during National Infant Immunization Week, his
department will carry out “a comprehensive campaign to reinforce the message
that vaccines are safe and effective.”
In New York, an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn has been hardest
hit. They were infected by visitors from Israel, where an outbreak of the
potentially life-threatening illness began a year ago.
Earlier this month New York’s mayor declared a public health emergency in
parts of Brooklyn, ordering all residents to be vaccinated to fight the
Washington state’s Clark County has seen the outbreak concentrated among a
Russian-speaking community. A child brought the virus back from Ukraine in
December and it spread to 74 other people, mostly children, through schools,
supermarkets and a bowling alley.
The state, in the country’s northwest, declared in January a state of
emergency over an outbreak of the airborne infection that causes fever,
coughing and rashes that can be deadly in rare cases.
The so-called anti-vax, or anti-vaxxer phenomenon has adherents across
Western nations but is particularly high profile in the US, where it has been
fueled by medically baseless claims spread on social media.
Tens of thousands of cases of measles have been reported in Africa and
Europe. Ukraine alone has more than 30,000 cases and 11 deaths since January.
Worldwide, measles cases rose 300 percent through the first three months
of 2019 compared with the same period last year, according to the United
BSS/AFP/FI/ 0748 hrs