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71 new measles cases push U.S. closer to record level

By Ed Adamczyk

April 22 (UPI) -- Seventy-one new measles cases were reported in the United States last week, bringing the total near a record for a year, federal health officials said Monday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the total number of cases, 626, is nearing the 2014 record for most in a year (667) since health officials declared measles eliminated in 2000.

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"In the coming weeks, 2019 confirmed case numbers will likely surpass 2014 levels," the CDC said in an update.

Twenty-two states have reported cases -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.

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Of the 71 new cases, all but three were reported in New York -- 53 in New York City and 15 in nearby Rockland County. Public health emergencies have been declared in both municipalities.

New York City this month mandated vaccination against measles and closed a Jewish school it said refused to provide vaccination records. The city and county include large Jewish Orthodox populations, and heathcare professionals are working to discredit misinformation about the vaccine they say has spread through those communities.

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Measles is a highly contagious disease, and the CDC said the MMR vaccination is 97 percent effective. Officials expect more cases after Easter and the end of Passover on Saturday.

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"Because of measles' long incubation period, we know this outbreak will get worse before it gets better," New York Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said.

The largest measles outbreak in the United States has been seen in New York City, where 359 confirmed cases have been reported. The city's mandatory vaccination order includes certain ZIP codes in the city, and failure to comply can lead to a $1,000 fine.

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