78 New Measles Cases: Outbreak Approaches Record as Reports Spread to More States

April 9, 2019 AT 7:40 AM

By Reis Thebault

For the second week in a row, U.S. health officials added dozens of new reports to the year’s list of confirmed measles cases, bringing the total to 465 — already the highest number in the past five years. It’s another significant milepost on the road to what will probably become a record outbreak after vaccines led to the disease’s “elimination” in the United States.

The number of people sickened by the highly contagious, occasionally deadly disease climbed by 78 during the first week of April, as four more states reported their first cases of 2019. Now, measles has been found in more than a third of U.S. states — up and down both coasts, and across the plains, the Midwest and the South — with most of the illnesses occurring in children.

In 2000, officials announced that they had eradicated measles in the United States. Yet since then, there have been years when the number of cases has surged, notably in 2014, when 667 were reported — the highest annual total since the turn of the century. That year, the disease was reported at a rate of 1.83 cases per day. In 2019, however, the rate has increased to 4.84 cases a day. If that pace continues, this year could surpass 2014 by June.

As The Washington Post has previously reported, public health experts link the surge to pockets of unvaccinated children across the country, populations deemed vulnerable in large part because their parents have hesitated or refused to get them immunized. One of the main reasons is an anti-vaccination movement that has spread misinformation around the world.

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