The record number of measles cases this year is mostly due to large outbreaks in Washington state, New York City and New York state. Half of those outbreaks were associated with close-knit religious or cultural communities that were undervaccinated, accounting for 88 percent of all cases.
The vast majority of measles cases "involve children who have not been vaccinated", Azar said.
Although one state outbreak has been declared over, health officials said they do expect more cases to be reported in the days to come.
When asked if he thought President Trump should publicly decry his previous tweets and sentiments, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar defended Trump. But when an global traveler gets exposed to measles overseas brings the disease into the country, growing pockets of unvaccinated communities within the US enable the disease to spread. The suffering we are seeing today is completely avoidable. Officials said that in addition to two outbreaks that have been linked to patients with worldwide travel, there have been 28 other outbreak-associated cases.
People who are unsure when, or if, they were vaccinated can safely opt for a shot, according to William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University and an infectious disease and vaccine expert. The US exceeded that record high in less than four months, highlighting a very concerning outbreak originating from clusters of unvaccinated people.
Many people are misinformed about vaccinations, according to the CDC, which is the primary reason that new outbreaks are occurring in the US. "Measles can be serious in any age group, but particularly in children younger than 5 and older adults, they are more likely to suffer complications". No deaths have been reported.
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However, a very small fraction of those infected can suffer complications such as pneumonia and unsafe swelling of the brain.
Though there has been much debate about parents' decision on whether to vaccinate their children, the CDC says the best way to fend off the disease is to ensure you get the MMR vaccine.
The United States was able to eliminate person-to-person transmission of measles in 2000.
"The people most at risk or the ones we worry about are the people born in the 60s-70s who might've gotten one shot and also between 1963 to 1968 we were giving a different measles shot that we know was not effective", said Dr. Miriam Alexander, with LifeBridge Health.
The current outbreaks are believed to trace back to visits to Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines as measles remains common in some countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Even under-protected people who do not live near ongoing outbreaks and are not planning to travel internationally don't have a pressing need, Schaffner says - but those people can get re-vaccinated if they so choose.
- Measles can spread when it reaches a community in the USA where groups of people are unvaccinated.