NEW YORK (AP) — Outbreaks in New York state continue to drive up the number of US measles cases, which are approaching levels not seen in 25 years.
Health officials said Monday that 71 more cases were reported last week, with 68 of them from New York. That brings this year’s total to 626.
That is already the most cases of measles since 2014, when 667 were reported for the whole year. The most before that was 963 cases in 1994.
Measles, which is highly contagious, can be entirely prevented through a two-dose vaccine; however, the World Health Organization (WHO) has in recent months sounded the alarm over slipping global vaccination rates.
Twenty-two states have reported cases, but the vast majority have been in New York — mainly in New York City and in nearby Rockland County. Most of the New York cases have been unvaccinated people in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the latest numbers Monday.
Last week, the UN’s World Health Agency reported that measles cases rose 300 percent worldwide through the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period last year, surging to over 112,000 reported cases — and likely many more unreported.
The agency noted that only about one in 10 actual measles cases are reported, meaning the early trends for 2019 likely underestimate the severity of the outbreaks.
But the disease is likely to hit hardest in parts of the world where health authorities’ response will be weakest. The WHO said that the most dramatic rise in cases — a 700% increase, compared to last year — has been reported in Africa, many parts of which have weaker vaccination coverage than other regions.