There have been 704 measles cases in the United States as of April 26, health officials confirmed on Monday, amid the worst outbreak the country has seen in 25 years.
These measles cases spread across 22 states, but officials say the high number of cases are primarily due to large outbreaks in the states of Washington and New York.
“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,” Alex Azar, US health and human services secretary, said in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) telebriefing.
Some of these outbreaks were the result of travelers bringing measles back to the US, where it was eliminated in 2000. The largest outbreaks are in New York City, where 423 cases have been reported since October. Most of them have affected Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.
“Another factor contributing to the outbreaks in New York is misinformation spreading in some counties about the safety and effectiveness of the MMR [measles, mumps, and rubella] vaccine,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, vaccine director for the CDC, said during the teleconference. “Sadly, these communities are being targeted with inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines.”
The anti-vax movement often cites misinformation that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism, due to findings published findings in the Lancet by now-discredited former doctor Andrew Wakefield.
The CDC has said before that the anti-vax movement has played a significant role in the global resurgence of measles outbreaks, and the World Health Organization has even listed vaccine hesitancy as a global health threat.
Measles is highly infectious and can be a dangerous illness for anyone, but especially so for children. Most of the measles cases in the US have affected children under the age of 18, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said.