With 555 total cases, 2019 now has the second-highest number of measles cases in the United States in 25 years - and the year isn't even half over.
If the outbreaks - which prompted the Big Apple to order mandatory vaccinations last week - aren't brought under control, health experts fear the number of cases in 2019 could set a 20-year record since measles were supposedly eliminated from the US.
"I'm obviously very concerned about the size and also acceleration of the current outbreak", said Dr. Nancy Messonier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "90 percent of people who are unvaccinated, or non-immune, and come in contact with someone with measles will become infected".
The number of cases of measles rose by more than 300 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2018, according to new figures from the World Health Organization.
However, actual numbers are likely to be 10 times as high, as only a fraction of cases are reported, according to the United Nations health agency. But when an global traveler exposed to measles overseas brings the disease into the country, pockets of unvaccinated communities within the US enable the disease to spread.
In 2000, measles was largely eradicated, having not been continually transmitted for a period of more than 12 months thanks to a highly effective vaccination program in the United States.
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The CDC recommends that all children get two doses of measles vaccine. The first dose gives 93% protection against measles and the second dose gives 97% protection.
Last week, New York City officials declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, putting in place the broadest vaccination order in the United States in almost three decades.
"Vaccine is the path to stopping this outbreak", Palacio said.
Smaller measles outbreaks are ongoing in New Jersey and California.
Health officials there announced last week that in the neighborhoods affected by the outbreak, anyone who has not had been vaccinated against measles or cannot show evidence of immunity could face a $1,000 fine.
The measles outbreak has spread primarily in the Orthodox Jewish community, where vaccination rates are lower, throughout four zip codes encompassing greater Williamsburg.
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