The United States might lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles if the number of new cases continues to grow this year.

Federal health officials announced on Monday that the number of confirmed measles cases has reached 981, with as many as 41 new instances of infection recorded just last week.

Infection rates rose by as much as 4 percent during the last week of May compared to the week prior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is already present in 26 states.

With so many people infected by measles in just the first few months of the year, the 2019 outbreak is shaping up to be the worst since 1992 when 2,126 cases were recorded.

If the situation does not improve until October 2019, the CDC warned that it could undo the U.S. government's declaration of having eliminated measles in 2000.

2019 Measles Outbreak

Measles fast became a serious concern for public health agencies, not just in the United States but around the world as well.

The World Health Organization reported that the number of measles cases worldwide increased by 300 percent in the first three months of the year, compared to the same period in 2018.

The disease has been particularly devastating to the continent of Africa, where infection rates rose by as much as 700 percent.

The WHO has received 112,163 reported cases of measles so far in 170 countries. By comparison, there were only 28,124 confirmed cases of infection in 163 countries during the same period last year.

However, the measles outbreak could even be a lot worse, especially since the WHO said only one in 10 infection cases are reported around the world.

In the United States, health officials fear that the number of measles cases could continue to increase as the months roll on. Disease outbreaks in the New York City area are already driving cases to reach near 1,000, according to the CDC.

Some of the states that have confirmed cases of measles outbreak include Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

What Could Have Caused The Increase In Measles Rates?

The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States started with 82 cases reported in 2018. This was followed by more than 40 cases involving people who have entered the country from areas suspected of the disease such as Ukraine, Israel, and the Philippines, according to health officials.

The infection mostly affects young children who have not received vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella. The inoculation is designed to help build the body's immunity against the disease.

Federal officials believe the outbreak may have been made worse because of American parents' refusal to have their children vaccinated. Many of these people argue that ingredients in vaccines can cause autism in children, which is contrary to scientific evidence.

The CDC is calling on the public to get inoculated against measles. The health agency said the key to eliminating the disease lies in the availability and widespread use of measles vaccines combined with a strong infrastructure to detect and contain the infection.

"Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated," said Robert Redfield, director of the CDC.

"Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents."

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