Measles, a highly contagious and dangerous virus, has been detected in 18 jurisdictions this year and health officials are growing increasingly concerned over its rapid spread.

Measles is classified as one of the most contagious diseases in the world. Those who are unvaccinated against it have a 9-in-10 chance they will become infected with the virus.

In the first four months of the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed 113 cases of the measles. Two weeks ago, that number was 64.

The rapid rise in new cases has health officials concerned of measles becoming widespread once more.

Measles Cases Increasing Worldwide

_jure from Getty Images
_jure from Getty Images

The New York State Department of Health has been tracking the increasing number of confirmed measles cases domestically and abroad. Although the virus was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, cases have been climbing in recent years.

The CDC calls this recent explosion in cases "a renewed threat to elimination."

"Measles is a serious disease that can make people very ill, especially young children. Complications include pneumonia, encephalitis, miscarriage, preterm birth, hospitalization, and death," the department continued.

The virus is spread when an infected persons coughs or sneezes, which contaminates the room they're in for up to 2 hours. Those who breathe in the virus or touch a contaminated surface and then touch their face are 90 percent likely to contract measles if they're unvaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed measles has been detected in 17 states so far in 2024: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. Measles was also confirmed in the jurisdiction of New York City.

At least 113 people have been infected so far this year, based on the latest update issued on April 5. Of these cases, 58% required hospitalization and 83% were unvaccinated.

The majority of cases involved children under five (56%), while the second-most affected group were people over 20 (27%).

Illinois and Florida have reported the most cases. At this time, numbers are being calculated to it's unknown exactly how many confirmed cases there are in any of the affected states and jurisdictions.

Last year, the nation reported roughly 53 cases across 20 states in America.

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The NYS Department of Health confirmed there are 2 measles cases in New York City. Both cases are related to international travel, and officials said they are not related to one another.

As of March 22, the first measles case outside New York City was been confirmed.

The case was identified in a patient who resides in Nassau County and was confirmed today at the Department's Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany.

The Nassau County Department of Health says the case involved an unvaccinated 5-year-old boy, who was taken to Cohen's Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. The hospital is alerting those who may have had contact with the patient, and identifying if any of those people are high- risk and need immediate treatment.

That is sparking fears of more cases being confirmed upstate in the following weeks. Health officials are urging residents to get their measles shot if they haven't and to isolate if they do contract the virus.

One major concern is that New York could experience an outbreak similar to 2019, where the nation reported roughly 1,300 measles cases across 31 states.

New York was particularly hit hard and it endured the highest number of cases since 1992.

The majority of cases involved unvaccinated individuals.

Complications of Measles

Aucklanders Encouraged To Vaccinate As Measles Cases Continue To Rise
Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The first symptoms of measles include high fever, cough, runny nose, as well as red and watery eyes. The disease eventually leads to an individual developing a red rash made up of flat red spots between the hairline and feet that can develop small, raised bumps on top.

Once a rash appears, an individual is likely to develop a fever as high as 104 degrees.

Symptoms typically last between 7 and 21 days depending on the severity of infection.

While a good number of people who contract measles recover, they face elevated risk of developing long term and serious health complications.

Said the DOH:

Serious complications include pneumonia and brain swelling. Long term serious complications can also include subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, a brain infection that can lead to permanent brain damage. Additionally, Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of early labor, miscarriage, and low birth weight infants.

Statistically, 1 out of 4 people who get measles will be hospitalized while 1 out of 1,000 individuals will develop brain swelling (encephalitis). Additionally, 1 out of every 1,000 measles cases result in death.

There is no treatment for measles, but certain painkillers can help reduce the high fever and assist in comfort.

Health officials say vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against this disease, writing, "Two doses of the measles vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. One dose is about 93% effective."

Another underlying concern is that, if measles is making a comeback - what other viruses will also rear their ugly heads?

While diseases like polio and rubella were eliminated in America, there are still cases of them in other parts of the world.

Health Officials Sounding Alarm over Rapid Spread of Measles

Photo by Illustration Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Photo by Illustration Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Vaccine expert Paul Offit recently told Axios that America is dealing with a "canary in a coal mine" moment with the recent resurgence of measles. He believes the rapid spread of a virus that was once declared eliminated over 20 years ago is a sign more Americans are basing their health care decisions off misinformation.

Measles in America was declared eliminated in 2000 due to widespread vaccination efforts, but cases of the virus have risen over the years - especially among unvaccinated individuals.

Vaccine skepticism has been an issue before the pandemic. The pushback against childhood vaccinations were buoyed by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, who wrongfully claimed vaccines caused autism.

That theory has been repeatedly debunked by the medical field, genealogists, and autism experts, who all say the claim is a product of fraudulent science and greed.

In 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a study in the medical journal, The Lancet, which purported a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and autism. The National Library of Medicine said multiple epidemiological studies were conducted to verify Wakefield's claims, but all were unsuccessful in confirming his findings.

It was later discovered Wakefield intentionally lied in his paper because he was coming out with his own "replacement" vaccinations. It was determined he wanted to damage the public's confidence in MMR vaccines in order to give his vaccines and diagnostic testing kits the best chance at success.

Wakefield's study was retracted and the British doctor lost his medical license.

Doctors Face Charges Over MMR Vaccination Scare
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

In the years since Wakefield's debunked report, an increasing number of parents have been opting out of childhood vaccinations; questioning whether vaccinations are needed at all.

Anti-vaccine sentiments grew amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to more people resisting vaccinations.

That leads us to today, with health officials sounding the alarm over measles cases rising across the United States and worldwide.

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