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US measles cases hit 25 year high

Health officials in hard-hit New York City today reported 61 new cases since late last week.

Image: Owen Humphreys via PA

MEASLES CASES IN the US this year have climbed past 680 to their highest level in 25 years, a resurgence largely attributed to misinformation that is turning parents against vaccines.

Health officials in hard-hit New York City today reported 61 new cases since late last week, in what would make this the nation’s worst year for measles since 1994, with eight months still to go.

The official nationwide count will not be released by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention until Monday. CDC officials said they are reviewing the latest reports.

Roughly three-quarters of this year’s illnesses in the US have been in New York state, mainly in two ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and suburban Rockland County. Most of those cases have been in unvaccinated people.

The number of cases is likely to go even higher. Measles is highly contagious and can spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. And in recent days, Jewish families have been gathering for Passover meals. It can take 10 to 12 days for symptoms to develop.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone over a year old.

The vaccine, which became available in the 1960s, is considered safe and highly effective, and because of it, measles was declared all but eliminated in the US in 2000. But it has made comebacks since then, including 667 cases in 2014.

Public health experts say some US communities have low vaccination rates because of the spread of bad information — especially the now-debunked notion that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is linked to autism — through social media, pamphlets, hotlines and other means.

“Many parents are afraid. And if you want to believe your kid doesn’t need that many shots, there’s plenty of places to find people who agree with you,” said Dr Jonathan Fielding, former head of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “It’s not so easy to discern what is real and what is not.”

For most people, measles is not life-threatening. The most common symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. However, a very small fraction of people can suffer complications such as pneumonia and a dangerous swelling of the brain.

According to the CDC, for every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it. No deaths have been recorded this year.

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Associated Press

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