This is only the fifth month of 2019, but already the number of measles cases surpass the totals for any year since 1992, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.
By the end of May, 971 cases of the highly contagious, vaccine-preventable illness have been recorded, topping the 963 total annual cases seen 27 years ago.
Most of this year's cases have occurred in locales known to be "hot spots" for the anti-vaxxer movement, and experts blame reductions in routine immunization for the outbreaks.
"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. Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an agency statement.
"Your decision to vaccinate will protect your family's health and your community's well-being," he stressed. "CDC will continue working with public health responders across our nation to bring this outbreak to an end."
The measles' unwelcome comeback didn't' have to happen. After the advent of an effective vaccine, the United States in 1966 announced a goal of eliminating measles from the nation. That goal was declared accomplished in 2000.
"We were able to eliminate measles in the United States for two main reasons," the CDC said. "Availability and widespread use of a safe and highly effective measles vaccine, and a strong public health infrastructure to detect and contain measles."
The biggest outbreak is occurring among orthodox Jewish communities in New York City, where 550 cases had been recorded by May 29. Other outbreaks have been noted in Washington state, Georgia and California.
The CDC says "misinformation," often spread via the Internet, "may lead parents to delay or refuse vaccines."
Instead, parents who might have questions about vaccines should ask professionals who know.
"CDC encourages parents with questions about measles vaccine to consult with their child's pediatrician, who know the children and community, and want to help parents better understand how vaccines can protect their children," the agency said.
According to the CDC, current vaccination advisories state that "everyone 6 months and older should be protected against measles before traveling internationally. Babies 6 to 11 months old need one dose of measles vaccine before traveling. Everyone 12 months and older needs two doses."
There's more on measles at the American Academy of Pediatrics.