Sixty more measles cases have been identified, bringing the total nationwide number to 940, US health officials reported today.
The new cases, stretching into another state, mark a nearly seven-percent increase in cases from the previous week.
This makes 2019’s outbreak the worst since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated from the US in 2000, the worst since 1992, when more than 2,000 cases were recorded.
New Mexico became the 26th, and most recent, US state to be struck by measles after health officials revealed a one-year-old from Sierra County had fallen ill.
It is the state’s first measles case in nearly five years.
The highly infectious disease has been spreading among people who are unvaccinated or live in states that allow non-medical exemptions for vaccines.
The CDC reported on Monday that the total number of measles cases for the year had risen to 940 in 26 states after 60 new cases were confirmed last week
Health experts have warned that the outbreak is not over as the number of cases edges closer to the 1994 total of 958.
That was the highest number since 1992, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded 2,126 cases.
Public health officials have blamed the measles resurgence on the spread of misinformation about vaccines.
Also to blame, the officials say, are a vocal fringe of parents whom oppose vaccines, believing, contrary to scientific studies, that ingredients in them can cause autism.
Cases have been confirmed in the following US states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
Of those states, seven – Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington – allow exemptions for philosophical and/or personal beliefs.
Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, signed a bill into law on Friday that eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccinations in the state.
New York, particularly, has been struggling to contain the disease that was considered ‘eradicated’ 20 years in ago.
There have been at least 785 confirmed cases in Brooklyn, Queens and Rockland County since September 2018 – almost all in Orthodox Jewish communities.
The outbreak did not originate in the US, but began with travelers who brought measles back from countries such as Israel and Ukraine, which have been experiencing their own outbreaks.
Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus.
When someone with measles coughs, sneezes or talks, infected droplets are sprayed into the air. Other people can inhale them and are then infected.
Symptoms present themselves between 10 to 14 days after infection and include fever, cough, runny nose and a total-body skin rash.
Once common, the disease is now rare due to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.
The CDC recommends children receive the first dose at 12 to 15 months old and the second dose at four to six years old.
The vaccine is about 97 percent effective. But those who are unvaccinated have a 90 percent chance of catching measles if they breathe the virus in, the CDC says.
Before the measles vaccine was available, more than 500,000 cases were diagnosed in the US every year, with about 500 annual deaths.
The World Health Organization reported that worldwide, there was a 300 percent increase in measles cases in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same time period in 2018.