(Reuters) – The United States has recorded 1,001 measles cases so far this year in the worst outbreak of the highly contagious disease in more than a quarter-century, federal health officials said on Wednesday as they issued a new plea for parents to vaccinate their children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 61 new cases have been reported since May 27 of the sometimes deadly disease. It is the highest number of cases since 1992, when the CDC recorded 2,126 cases.
Federal health officials attribute this year’s outbreak to U.S. parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. These parents believe, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in the vaccine can cause autism.
“We cannot say this enough: Vaccines are a safe and highly effective public health tool that can prevent this disease and end the current outbreak,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
The disease has mostly affected children who have not received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which confers immunity to the three infectious diseases.
Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning there was no continuous transmission of the disease for a year. Still, cases of the virus occur and spread via travelers coming from countries where measles is common.
CDC officials have warned that the country risks losing its measles elimination status if the ongoing outbreak, which began in October 2018 in New York, continues until October 2019.