Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Officials in Washington state have declared a measles outbreak after 22 people became infected this year, following the second worst year for measles nationwide.
Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 due to its vaccination program, but new outbreaks have been caused by travelers who bring the virus back from other countries and spreads among people who are not vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The infectious viral disease causing fever and red skin rash typically impacts children, and has infected 20 children out of at least 22 people infected in Washington state so far.
"It's an outbreak because generally the way we define an outbreak is when you have more observed cases than expected cases. And generally with measles, the expected number is zero," Dr. Alan Melnick with Clark County Public Health told KOIN6 TV in Portland, Oregon, last week. "You know, we have a very effective vaccine for measles. Two shots are 97 percent effective. We really shouldn't be seeing measles."
The outbreak comes after the CDC released data for 2018 earlier this month that showed it was the second worst year for measles in the United States since 2000, with 349 cases reported in 26 states and the District of Columbia.The worst year since 2000 was 2014 with 667 cases reported., the CDC said.
A measles outbreak among Orthodox Jews in New York alone has led to 177 cases.
The CDC report said that ongoing outbreaks in New York State, New York City and New Jersey contributed to measles cases in 2018. Cases were related primarily to people who were not vaccinated in Orthodox Jewish communities, along with travelers visiting places like Israel, where a large outbreak is occurring. An outbreak is defined as three or more linked cases, according to the CDC.
The CDC noted that 81 people brought measles to the United States from other countries in 2018, which is the greatest number of imported cases since 2000.
Vaccines have saved more than 21 million lives since 2000, a World Health Organization report shows.
A World Health Organization report last November revealed that global cases of measles spiked by more than 30 percent in 2017 from the prior year due to gaps in vaccination coverage resulting in more than 100,000 deaths.