A sign warns people of measles in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Measles outbreaks in New York continued to deteriorate last week, bringing the total so far to 839 cases in 23 states – the highest number of infections since 1994, the disease control and prevention centers, said Monday.
The CDC confirmed 75 new cases of measles throughout the country last week. American health officials blame the recent increase in cases – after saying that the disease was eliminated from the US in 2000 – to an increasing number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
Of the new cases last week, 66 were reported in New York, 41 in New York City and 25 in nearby Rockland County. Public health officials have had two outbreaks since the fall. New York City threatens to issue $ 1,000 fines to people living in neighborhoods with the worst outbreaks and refusing to have their children vaccinated. City health care officials have already embraced 84 people because they refused to comply with the order.
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Measles is highly contagious and yet preventable with a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. More parents are refusing to vaccinate their children, sometimes based on false information that vaccines cause autism.
The disease is spreading quickly and easily to people who are not immunized, making communities with high percentages of people who are not protected particularly vulnerable.
Measles starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. It then causes a rash. Some people develop serious complications, such as pneumonia or swelling of the brain. Children younger than 5 and adults older than 20 are more likely to have complications, making the disease particularly dangerous for them.
Although measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000, the disease is still common in other countries. Unvaccinated people can pick up the disease during their journey and return it to the United States, where they can spread it to other unvaccinated people.