Federal health officials said on Oct. 7 that another 7 measles cases were recorded last week, taking the total cases for this year to 1,250, the highest in the United States since 1992.
According to an updated report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75 percent of these cases were linked to New York City and New York state, where a nearly year-long outbreak had put the United States at risk of losing its measles elimination status. CDC said most of these cases were among unvaccinated children in Orthodox Jewish communities.
119 of these cases required hospitalization, and 61 patients reported complications including pneumonia and encephalitis. The report also noted that there is only one outbreak currently under investigation, which is in New York but not related to the cases previously reported in the Rockland County. The most recent cases were linked to travelers bringing the virus back from foreign countries including Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring.
“This past year’s outbreak was an alarming reminder about the dangers of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar after New York State Department of Health announced the end of the outbreak in the Rockland County. “That is why the Trump Administration will continue making it a priority to work with communities and promote vaccination as one of the easiest things you can do to keep you and your family healthy and safe.”
As measles outbreaks continue to occur in countries around the world, there always remains a risk of measles being imported into the U.S., the CDC said. When measles is imported into a highly vaccinated community, outbreaks either do not happen or are usually small. However, if measles is introduced into an under-vaccinated community, it can spread quickly and become difficult to control.
“Our Nation’s successful public health response to this recent measles outbreak is a testament to the commitment and effectiveness of state and local health departments, and engaged communities across the country,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “CDC encourages Americans to embrace vaccination with confidence for themselves and their families. We want to emphasize that vaccines are safe. They remain the most powerful tool to preserve health and to save lives. The prevalence of measles is a global challenge, and the best way to stop this and other vaccine preventable diseases from gaining a foothold in the U.S. is to accept vaccines.”
Before the measles vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1963, according to the CDC, nearly three to four million people were infected annually, with 48,000 of these needing hospitalized and approximately 500 people dying among the 500,000 reported measles cases each year.