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CDC: Measles cases hits 695, highest number since disease was eliminated in 2000

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April 25 (UPI) — Measles cases in the United States have exceeded the highest number on record since the disease was eliminated in the country in 2000, health officials said.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it recorded 695 cases of measles from 22 states for 2019, surpassing the 2014 number of 667.

“This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated from this country in 2000,” the CDC said in a statement.

The CDC attributed the record-setting number of cases to a few large outbreaks, specifically in Washington State and New York.

“The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States,” the CDC said.

The recent outbreaks began when unvaccinated travelers who visited countries experiencing an outbreak returned to the United States, putting at danger of infection those in their communities who have not been vaccinated, the CDC.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that measles is not a harmless childhood illness and that suffering from the disease is “avoidable.”

“We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities,” he said. “Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization said the number of worldwide measles cases increased 300 percent during the first three months of the year compared to the same time period last year.

WHO saidvaccine hesitancy,” which is “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines,” is one of 10 threats to global health in 2019.

Azar said with next week being National Infant Immunization Week, the Department of Health and Human Services will start a campaign to educate the public that vaccines are safe.

“All Americans would be safer and healthier if we received measles vaccines on the recommended schedule,” he said.

The CDC said it will release an update to the number of measles cases April 29.

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