May 30 (UPI) -- Measles cases in the United States have hit a high of 971, shattering the 943 cases in 1994 to be the highest number of cases in 25 years -- and it comes barely halfway into the year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number on Thursday afternoon, the agency's second measles count released this week. Monday's report, of 940 cases reported through May 24, already was the second highest since 1994.
Areas with reported outbreaks include Butte, Los Angeles and Sacramento Counties in California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Rockland County and New York City in New York State.
The CDC is working closely with state and local health departments to contain ongoing outbreaks.
"Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. "Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism."
The outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., have lasted for close to seven months, and if they persist through the fall, could jeopardize measles elimination status in the United States, the CDC says.
States with confirmed measles cases include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.
According to the agency, the United States eliminated the measles in 2000. Prior to the widespread use of the vaccine, measles cases regularly topped 4 million, leading to 48,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths each year.
The CDC says that the virus was eliminated due to "availability and widespread use of a safe and highly effective measles vaccine" and "strong public health infrastructure to detect and contain measles."
To combat the virus today, the agency suggests parents who think the measles vaccine can cause autism should talk with a pediatrician to get a better understanding of the drug's safety.
"The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents," Redfield said. "Your decision to vaccinate will protect your family's health and your community's well-being. CDC will continue working with public health responders across our nation to bring this outbreak to an end."