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Measles cases surge to second-highest total since elimination in 2000

Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. | AP Photo

Almost 400 cases of the measles have been confirmed in 15 states this year as the disease nears record numbers since measles was declared eliminated almost two decades ago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 387 measles cases have been confirmed from Jan. 1 to March 28, including 73 cases last week alone.

The surge in measles cases has thrown a spotlight on the anti-vaccination movement. Most people who contract measles have not been vaccinated, the CDC said. Measles are extremely contagious.

“If one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” the CDC said.

The record total for one year since 2000 is 667 in 2014. There were 372 cases last year.

Most of the cases this year are where “outbreaks” – defined as three or more localized cases – have swept parts of New York, California, Illinois, Texas, and Washington state, the CDC said. The outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from countries including Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, the CDC said.

Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. The CDC says vaccinations are 97 percent effective and the agency urges vaccinations before traveling internationally.

An outbreak in New York’s Rockland County sparked controversy last week when county officials declared a state of emergency, citing more than 150 measles cases. The county barred unvaccinated youths under 18 from public places for 30 days, although parks and outdoor areas are not included.

The ban, which will be in effect for 30 days, prompted a backlash from a small group of anti-vaccination advocates, who protested Thursday in what they dubbed on Facebook a “Rockland County — Unvaccinated Civil Disobedience.”

Common measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, and a rash that can spread across the entire body. A very small number of those infected and can develop pneumonia, swelling of the brain or other serious symptoms. Measles also can cause pregnant women to deliver prematurely.

The virus can be spread through the air or through contact with surfaces touched by those who are infected. It can live for up to two hours in areas where the infected person coughed or sneezed and on surfaces she or he touched.

Other states that have reported cases to CDC are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Oregon.