Measles outbreak: CDC finds 704 cases nationwide, most in 25 years

CDC stresses immunization as new measles cases in the U.S. climbs to the highest number in a year since 1994.

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By Shamard Charles, M.D.

For the third week in a row, health officials Monday added dozens of new reports to the year’s list of confirmed measles cases, bringing the total to 704 in 22 states — the highest number of reported cases in the U.S. in a year since 1994.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the 33 additional cases, as of April 26, are a result of ongoing outbreaks in New York and California. Last week new cases of measles reported in New York, New Jersey and California brought the total number of infections in the U.S. to 695 — the most for a year since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.

Nationwide there have been 13 outbreaks, six of which were in under-immunized close-knit religious or cultural communities, making up 88 percent of all the cases.

The national public health agency also added that the majority of cases were imported from other countries.

“Forty-four cases were directly imported from other countries, and 9 out of 10 of those individuals were in unvaccinated persons. All 40 were old enough to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

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Messonnier said that the original cases were brought from the Philippines, Ukraine and Israel but did not specify whether the newer cases came from those countries.

The number of people sickened by the highly contagious, occasionally deadly disease has centered on outbreaks in New York state, including Rockland County and New York City where more than two-thirds of measles cases have occurred this year. California has also seen a recent uptick in measles cases.

Health officials said Friday that nearly 700 people at UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles were ordered to stay home because they might have had contact this month with two measles patients.

At one point, roughly 1,700 people were under quarantine orders, but health officials quickly cleared more than 1,000 who came forward with proof of vaccination, according to Los Angeles County public health officials.

The recent outbreaks, now called an epidemic by most public health experts, has caught the attention of federal public officials including the president.

On Friday, President Donald Trump urged parents to get their children vaccinated.

“This is really going around now,” he said. “They have to get their shot.”

Measles is now being found in almost half of U.S. states — with most cases occurring in children.

“Measles is not a harmless childhood disease. Many of us have not seen the deadly complications of measles and that’s the way we want to keep it. Measles and many consequences belongs in the history books,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, in a CDC telebriefing on the outbreak.

Azar stressed the importance of dispelling misinformation campaigns and getting children vaccinated, not only as a result of the recent measles outbreak but in support of National Infant Immunization Week, which began April 24th and runs until Saturday (May 4).

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