The measles outbreak that has spread throughout the nation has reached the highest level in 25 years, officials announced this week.
In total, there have been 681 measles cases reported in 22 states this year, according to health officials. Between Jan. 1 and Monday, April 21, the Centers for Disease Control said that there have been 626 individual cases confirmed, an increase of 71 in the past week.
The CDC said that this is the second-highest number of cases reported since measles was eliminated in 2000, second only to 667 cases that were reported in 2014. In the coming weeks, health officials noted that “case numbers will likely surpass 2014 levels.”
The states reporting measles cases are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.
“Measles elimination” has been described by the CDC as the absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area. Measles is no longer endemic in the United States. The virus has been deemed “eliminated” in the country since 2000.
Last month, UNICEF warned that “global cases of measles are surging to alarmingly high levels, led by 10 countries accounting for more than 74 percent of the total increase and several others that had previously been declared measles free.
“Globally, 98 countries reported more cases of measles in 2018 compared to 2017, eroding progress against this highly preventable, but potentially deadly disease.”
"This is a wakeup call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director, said. “These cases haven’t happened overnight. Just as the serious outbreaks we are seeing today took hold in 2018, lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for children tomorrow.”
According to UNICEF, measles is highly contagious, more so than Ebola, tuberculosis or influenza. The virus can be contracted by someone up to two hours after an infected person has left a room. It spreads through the air and infects the respiratory tract, potentially killing malnourished children or babies too young to be vaccinated. Once infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.
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