The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that measles cases have hit a 20-year high in the United States, citing international travel by people who have not been vaccinated against the virus as the cause.
Between Jan. 1 and May 23 of this year, 288 measles cases were reported to the federal health agency, the highest year-to-date total since 1994, officials said.
“This is not the kind of record we want to break, but should be a wake-up call to travelers and parents to make sure vaccinations are up to date," said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases.
Measles are an infectious viral disease that causes fever and red rashes on the skin, typically occurring in childhood. They are considered to be very contagious and are also known as rubeola or red measles.
Home-grown measles in the United States was declared eliminated in 2000, but cases imported from patients traveling abroad continue to infect unvaccinated U.S. residents, according to the CDC.
Though 43 patients with measles have been hospitalized this year, there have been no reported deaths. However, 85 percent of unvaccinated U.S. residents who contracted measles cited religious, philosophical or personal reasons for not getting immunized,
which is troubling to health professionals.
To prevent the outbreak of measles, the CDC recommends that, starting at 12 months, infants receive two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Infants aged 6 through 11 months old should receive one dose of MMR vaccine before international travel. It is also recommended that adults who were not immunized as children or are unsure of their immunization history get vaccinated.
(Photo: Steve Pope/epa/Corbis )