Federal health officials said Monday there have been more than 700 cases of measles in 2019, marking the highest total in a single year since 1994 and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Between Jan. 1 and April 26, 704 measles cases have been reported across 22 states, according to the Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters the biggest driver of the swell is outbreaks in unvaccinated communities.
Six of the 13 measles outbreaks this year occurred in communities with vaccination rates that were less than the 90% to 95% rate necessary to maintain herd immunity. Those communities account for 88% of this year's measles cases, according to the report.
"Vaccine-preventable diseases belong in the history books, not in our emergency rooms," Azar said.
So far, 66 people have been hospitalized due to measles this year but there have been no deaths, according to the CDC.
In 2000, the CDC declared measles eliminated after a national immunization program required children to get vaccinated before entering kindergarten in public school. But in recent years, a growing number of parents have opted to forgo vaccinations.
Studies have shown the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is safe and up to 97% effective against measles after two doses are administered.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said three outbreaks have made up the majority of this year's cases.
Outbreaks in both New York and New York City have accounted for 474 of measles cases this year, making them the largest and longest lasting outbreaks in the U.S. since 2000.
"The longer these outbreaks continue the greater the chance that measles will again get a foothold in the United States," Messonnier said.
In New York City alone, 390 measles cases have been reported in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn as of April 24, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, with most of those infected being members of the Orthodox Jewish community.
On April 9, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency for the city and mandated all children to get vaccinated or their families will face a $1,000 fine.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the agency was working with local and state health departments and healthcare providers to promote CDC vaccination recommendations.
Treating measles with supportive care can be very expensive, costing an average of $32,000 per case, Messonnier said.
Last week, public health officials in California ordered a quarantine at both the University of California at Los Angeles and California State University at Los Angeles for nearly 700 people who were exposed to two confirmed cases of measles.