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US measles count nears 1,000, surpassing 25-year-old record

NEW YORK — This year’s nationwide measles epidemic just surpassed a 25-year-old record, and experts say it’s not clear when the wave of illnesses will stop.

U.S. health officials on Thursday reported 971 cases so far this year. That eclipses the 963 measles illnesses reported for all of 1994.

It’s been 27 years since the nation saw this many measles cases — 2,237 cases were reported in 1992.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the numbers Thursday.

Measles was once common in the U.S. but gradually became rare after vaccination campaigns that started in the 1960s.

Measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning it was no longer continuously transmitted in the country.

Illnesses have been reported in at least 26 states, but New York has been the largest contributor to this year’s milestone. As of May 29, there have been 550 confirmed cases of measles in the New York City and 254 confirmed cases in Rockland County as of May 28. Most of those cases have been in Orthodox Jewish communities with low vaccination rates.

The elimination of the virus in the United States is attributed to widespread measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and a “strong public health infrastructure to detect and contain measles,” according to the CDC.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, with symptoms including rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. It is easily spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. People can also become sick if they come in contact with an infected person’s mucus or saliva.

Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report. 

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