US measles cases hit highest level since eradication in 2000

A sign warning people of measles in the ultra Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg

71 new measles cases push U.S. closer to record level

This officially makes it the highest number of cases since the disease was eliminated in 2000, health officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday (April 24).

Health authorities say five cases of measles have been confirmed among Los Angeles County residents so far this year. Till date, measles have been identified in 22 states.

"The initial child with measles was unvaccinated and acquired measles on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring", the NYC Health Department said in a statement on its website.

The CDC will release new numbers on the measles outbreaks on April 29 as part of its campaign to encourage the lifesaving benefits of childhood immunizations. According to an Associated Press count, that pushes this year's national tally past the 667 cases reported for all of 2014.

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Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or if someone comes into direct contact or shares germs by touching the same objects or surfaces.

Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, tiny white spots in the mouth and a red rash on the face that spreads to the extremities.

The contagious nature of the disease coupled with global travel and communities with low vaccination rates have all contributed to the spike in cases being seen in the U.S. The large number in NY and Rockland County is due to high population of Orthodox Jewish population, where many people refused to be vaccinated to prevent measles.

Washington state lawmakers voted Tuesday to remove parents' ability to claim a personal or philosophical exemption from vaccinating their children for measles, although medical and religious exemptions will remain.

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The CDC recommends children get two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age.

"Ever since there was vaccination, there were people who were against vaccines", Moss says. Most of those cases have been in unvaccinated people.

Measles kills about 1 in 1,000 who get it, he said. The CDC said these outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought the measles back from other countries like Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines. Two doses are about 97 percent effective. That has left a large pool of young people especially vulnerable to infections, experts say.

The epidemic started with a few large outbreaks in Washington state and in NY state, according to the CDC. Though the measles outbreak started in Brooklyn in October, it wasn't until the night the traveler set off, in early March, that he started showing symptoms. The CDC confirmed measles outbreaks in areas of New York, New Jersey, California, Washington and MI.

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This is important news since, in a past outbreak, measles cases in pregnant women resulted in a baby being born with measles and a miscarriage.

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