The measles outbreak spread to three more states and Washington D.C. last week, affecting 19 additional people, according to an update posted Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The highly contagious disease is now in 18 jurisdictions, with 121 people affected. The vast majority of the cases are part of the large outbreak that began in Southern California Disney theme parks in late December, the health agency said.
The total is on pace to easily surpass the 644 cases in the United States in 2014, the greatest number since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. Last week, the CDC reported 102 cases in 14 states.
Authorities have said the resurgence is mostly caused by the growing number of people who are declining to vaccinate their children for personal reasons, or delaying the vaccinations.
"This is a teachable moment for this country," former U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman said at a conference Monday at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. "When we see a disease that was almost eliminated in the early 1980s now come back with a jolt all around this country, we have to ask ourselves what’s going on.
"Not even vaccines are immune to politics ... I've seen politics threaten vaccination efforts time and time again," he added.
According to the CDC, measles spread to Nevada (2 cases) as well as Delware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia (1 case each), as it continued to plague California, which has 88 cases. Arizona has the second-largest case total with 7.
Public health authorities have begun campaigning about the importance of vaccinating children against measles. President Obama, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy and Baltimore Public Health Commissioner Leana S. Wen, as well as the CDC and other public health organizations have called on parents to vaccinate children.