Federal health officials report 41 new cases of measles across the U.S. last week, bringing the number of total cases for the year to 880 — the highest number recorded since 1994.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports outbreaks in 24 states, with only the very Deep South and Northern Plains spared.

The CDC says outbreaks in several states, including California, Georgia, Michigan and New York, are linked to travelers who are suspected of bringing back the virus from countries with large measles outbreaks, such as Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine.

The CDC recommends vaccinations for everyone older than 12 months, except those who already had the disease as children and have become immune.

The virus has spread among school-age children whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate them. Parents who do not vaccinate their children often cite religious beliefs or the concerns the vaccine may cause autism or other health problems, despite scientific studies that have debunked such claims.

The World Health Organization says parents who refuse to inoculate their children against such diseases is one of the top 10 threats to global health.

The measles vaccine, first available in the 1960s, is considered safe and effective by most public health experts, who say that it also can save lives.

The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread primarily by coughing and sneezing.

It is still a common disease in many parts of the world. It was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000 with only a handful of cases reported in the U.S. most every year since then.

Last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) released an update on measles activity in the Americas. It said 12 countries have reported cases in 2019: Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, the U.S., Uruguay, and Venezuela.

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