Seth Wenig / AP
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 695 measles cases in 22 states.
"This is the largest number of cases reported in the United States since Measles 2000 were eliminated from this country," a CDC statement issued late Wednesday.
The agency attributed the high number of cases to a few major outbreaks – one in the state of Washington and two more in New York City and the state of New York. The outbreaks in New York are among the largest and longest since 2000.
"The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance that measles will regain ground in the United States," the CDC said.
Health and Alex Azar, Human Services Secretary, said in a statement that the increase in measles cases was "preventable".
"Measles are not harmless teething troubles, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease," he said. "We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease." The measles vaccines are among the most intensively studied medical products we have. and their safety was firmly established in many of the largest vaccine trials ever conducted over many years. "
Azar said the CDC was ready to assist local health departments in monitoring and responding to outbreaks.
The measles outbreaks were largely imported by unvaccinated travelers exposed to the disease in another country and returned back to the US, where they were exposed to other unvaccinated persons. If a church is heavily vaccinated, the outbreaks are minimal or absent.
"However, once measles are in an under-vaccinated community, it becomes difficult to control the spread of the disease," the CDC said.
One such community is in New York, where there is much misinformation about the measles / mumps / rubella vaccine. The CDC said some organizations there deliberately spread "inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines."
The states with reported cases of measles are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York , Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.
The CDC will release new numbers on measles outbreaks on April 29 as part of its campaign to promote the life-saving benefits of vaccination in children.