The United States recorded 695 cases of measles in 2019, the most of any year since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, health authorities said.
“The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks — one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Wednesday.
The resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly-contagious disease is linked to a growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations — which the World Health Organization has identified as a major global health threat.
Outbreaks in the United States have mostly been confined to tight-knit communities where vaccination rates are lower than the national average of more than 90%.
People infected with the virus brought it to the United States from Israel and Ukraine and passed it on to members of their communities, many of whom had not been vaccinated.
“The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement confirming the new record.