NEW DETAILS: Three new measles cases in Georgia part of nationwide spike

Three new cases of measles were confirmed this week by the Georgia Department of Public Health, adding to the largest national outbreak of the disease in two decades.

Already this year, 695 people have fallen ill in 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks in Washington state and New York, according to the CDC. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles, a disease declared eliminated in this country in 2000, will again get a foothold in the United States, the CDC said.

The most recent cases in Georgia, which bring the total in the state to six, involve three members of the same family. None had been vaccinated.

A sign warns people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg on April 10 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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“This current outbreak is deeply troubling, and I call upon all health-care providers to assure patients about the efficacy and safety of the measles vaccine, CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a press release. “And I encourage all Americans to adhere to CDC vaccine guidelines in order to protect themselves, their families and their communities from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. We must work together as a nation to eliminate this disease once and for all.”

The recent outbreaks started through importation, the CDC said. Measles is imported by unvaccinated travelers who visit a country where there is widespread measles transmission, get infected and return to the United States. They can then infect others here who are not vaccinated.

» MORE: Caution is best weapon against rising number of measles cases

In this March 27, 2019, file photo, measles, mumps and rubella vaccines sit in a cooler at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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The CDC said bad information, spread through social media, has played a significant role in parents turning away from vaccinations. It pointed to the now-debunked theory that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is linked to autism.

Earlier this month, New York City declared a public health emergency and instituted mandatory vaccinations in certain ZIP codes after hundreds were sickened.