Measles Tops 700 Cases in US, Mostly Among Children

Signs about measles and the measles vaccine are displayed at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., on Wednesday. The county in New York City’s northern suburbs declared a local state of emergency Tuesday over a measles outbreak that has infected more than 150 people since last fall, hoping a ban against unvaccinated children in public places wakes their parents to the seriousness of the problem. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Across 22 states, more than 704 cases of measles have been reported so far this year, U.S. health officials said Monday.

While no deaths have been reported, 66 patients were hospitalized.

Just 44 people of this year’s tally caught the disease while traveling in another country, according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but some of these individuals triggered outbreaks here.

The largest outbreaks have occurred in unvaccinated communities of Orthodox Jews in and around New York City.

Children or teenagers account for three-fourths of those who caught the disease. Measles is extremely contagious, spreading through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The United States saw its highest level of measles outbreaks in 1994, with 963 cases, and declared the disease eradicated here in 2000 thanks to the MMR vaccine, which also inoculates patients against the mumps and rubella.

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