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CDC calls on parents to vaccinate as measles outbreak grows

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With the largest outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is reminding parents that vaccination is key to preventing this sometimes deadly virus.

Measles have infected 129 people in 13 states in 2014, the most in the first four months of any year since 1996, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. This came as they warned clinicians, parents and others to watch for the potentially deadly virus.

From January 1 to April 18, 2014, 129 measles cases have been reported in the United States to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). Since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000, annual reported cases have ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 220 in 2011.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. The disease of measles and the virus that causes it share the same name. The disease is also called rubeola.

Measles causes fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die. Other rash-causing diseases often confused with measles include roseola (roseola infantum) and rubella (German).

You can protect your child against measles with a combination vaccine that provides protection against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The CDC recommends the first dose of vaccination at between 12 and 15 months of age with a second dose between the ages of 4-6.

A recent surge of fears that the MMR vaccine can contribute to autism has left many parents debating the safety of the vaccine. The CDC insists that the vaccine is very safe and effective and urges parents to get their children vaccinated especially now that the virus is on U.S. soil once again.

Some wonder how a virus that was completely eradicated in 2000 finds it way back into the U.S. after all this time. The Philippines is currently experiencing a large, ongoing measles outbreak (more than 20,000 cases). Outbreaks in countries to which Americans often travel can directly contribute to an increase in measles cases in the U.S.

The majority of the people who got measles are unvaccinated.

Measles is still common in many parts of the world. Travelers with measles continue to bring the disease to the U.S.
Measles can spread when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated.

Measles can be a serious and even deadly illness. Serious complications from measles are more common in children younger than 5 years old and adults 20 years of age and older. The CDC calls on parents to make sure their children get the necessary doses of the MMR vaccine to prevent this illness from spreading further.

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. But you may want to check with your health insurance provider before going to the doctor. Insurance policies that are Affordable Care Act compliant provide 100% coverage for vaccinations.

If you don't have insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child's doctor.

Local county health departments also are a valuable source for information regarding low or no cost vaccinations for adults and children.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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