Measles cases have surged to 981 so far this year, the highest annual case count in nearly three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The latest tally represents an increase of 41 measles cases since last week, and the highest annual case count since 1992, when 2,237 cases were reported and four people died. The highly contagious viral infection was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but public health experts have warned that if measles cases continue to climb in the coming months, that status could be reversed.
“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” the CDC said in a news release last week.
The CDC set a goal to eliminate measles in the U.S. in 1978, and transmission of the viral infection was significantly curbed through widespread vaccinations and public health efforts to detect and contain measles cases before they became outbreaks.
“Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations,” the CDC said.
The high case count in 2019 has been driven by a few large outbreaks, including in New York City and New York’s Rockland County, where the virus has been spreading for nearly eight months. Those measles outbreaks have primarily been concentrated among Orthodox Jewish communities and among unvaccinated people.
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