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Measles Outbreak Is a 'Wake-Up Call' for Parents, Says CDC

Measles outbreak reaches record-breaking high
Photograph by Getty Images/Creatas RF

If you thought all that talk about a measles outbreak was really just a few isolated but exaggerated incidents, think again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some rather sobering stats last Thursday, when it revealed that the U.S. has had the highest number of reported measles cases in 2014 that it's ever had in the 14 years since the disease was first eliminated.

The outbreak has emerged in clusters, centering mostly in Ohio with 138 cases, California with 60 and New York with 26. All in all, 288 cases have been reported so far. And according to the CDC, 97 percent of them have all had one thing in common: The measles were brought back by American travelers after going abroad. Many of these people — more than half to be exact — had traveled to the Philippines in particular, where a recent outbreak has affected over 32,000 and killed 41. Another common thread? The vast majority of those sick have not been vaccinated. In Ohio, the location of the biggest outbreak has been centered in an Amish community where vaccination is not as common, due to religious and cultural beliefs.

That last fact has left the CDC slightly panicked, which is why they are strongly urging parents everywhere to vaccinate their kids now if they haven't already done so.

“This is a wake-up call for travelers and parents to make sure vaccinations are up to date,” the CDC's Anne Schuchat told the Washington Post.

“Measles vaccine is very safe and effective, and measles can be serious,” she assured. “It’s very infectious.”

That's no exaggeration. The highly contagious respiratory disease, which usually affects small children, causes fevers, coughing and runny noses, and a distinct full-body rash. Some have even been known to contract ear infections or come down with pneumonia. Even more alarming: the disease can be present in the body for up to four days before symptoms truly emerge, leaving doctors and parents often unable to spot its early warning signs.

Forty-three of Americans who have contracted the disease this year have needed hospitalization (mostly for pneumonia). And while deaths from measles are not uncommon in foreign nations, thankfully none have been reported in the U.S. yet.

First introduced in 1963, the measles vaccination is usually given in two doses — one typically after a child's first birthday and the next a few years later. But the CDC assures that if parents are traveling abroad with a young baby between six and twelve months, it is still safe to vaccinate. Those that should steer clear? Anyone who has a particularly weak immune systems or is pregnant.

Learn more about the outbreak, as well as what you should do if you need to vaccinate on the CDC's official website.

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