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Measles cases reach 25-year high :

April 29, 2019

Editor's note: An updated story is available at

The country’s top health officials decried misinformation about measles vaccines Monday, urging vaccination as the case count grew to 704.

The tally is the highest since 1994 despite the virus having been eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

“Vaccination is a simple, safe and effective way to protect our loved ones and neighbors from the scourge of measles and the suffering we are seeing today is completely avoidable,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II, J.D., said.

About 71% of people who have gotten sick have been unvaccinated, 11% were vaccinated and the rest had an unknown status, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The median age of patients is 5 years.

The CDC and the Academy recommend children receive the first routine dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) at 12-15 months and the second dose at 4-6 years. One dose is about 93% effective and two doses are about 97% effective.

If children are traveling abroad, infants ages 6 months through 11 months should have one dose of MMR and children 12 months and older should receive two doses at least 28 days apart, according to the CDC. In outbreak settings, health departments may recommend vaccinating 6- to 11-month-olds. They also may recommend a second dose at least 28 days from the first for children ages 1 through 4 years.

Measles has symptoms like fever cough, runny nose and watery eyes followed by a rash. It can result in complications like pneumonia, brain damage and deafness and can be fatal. While no deaths have been reported this year, 9% of patients have been hospitalized.

“Measles is not a harmless childhood illness but a dangerous, highly contagious disease,” Azar said. “Most of us have never seen the deadly consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases can have on a child, family, or community. That’s the way we want to keep it. Vaccine preventable diseases belong in the history books, not our emergency rooms.”

Cases have been reported this year in 22 states – 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.

Outbreaks are ongoing in Rockland County, New York; New York City; Michigan; New Jersey; Butte County, Calif.; Los Angeles County, Calif.; Sacramento County, Calif.; Georgia; and Maryland.

In 44 cases, a traveler picked up the disease overseas and brought it back to the U.S. The most common places they traveled were the Philippines, Ukraine and Israel.

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