April 29 (UPI) -- There have been more than 700 reported measles cases in the United States this year -- the highest mark in a quarter-century, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
The CDC said there have been 704 cases between January and April, an increase of 74 over the previous week and the highest since 1994. The highly infectious disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
There are outbreaks, defined as three or more cases, in New York state, Michigan, New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland and California. They account for 94 percent of all cases and are linked to Americans who visited Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, areas where outbreaks have also been reported. U.S. cases have also been found in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.
More than 500 of the infected were not vaccinated against measles, officials said, and more than a third of cases involve children under 5 years old. Outbreaks in close-knit religious or cultural communities, notably in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., account for 88 percent of all cases.
A mandatory vaccination order has been imposed in New York City. Those with measles in Rockland County must avoid public spaces or be subject to a $2,000-a-day fine. Hundreds of California college students were quarantined last week after exposures threatened the University of California at Los Angeles and California State University, Los Angeles.
The CDC has reiterated the importance of vaccinations and urged adults to research their measles immunization histories.
"With a safe and effective vaccine that protects against measles, the suffering we are seeing is avoidable," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement last week. "All Americans would be safer and healthier if we received measles vaccines on the recommended schedule."
Babies and young children with measles are especially vulnerable to other deadly illnesses. As many as one out of every 20 children with measles also acquires pneumonia and one in every 1,000 develops encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.