Posted 2:26 PM 4/19/2012 : Measles cases on the rise
(NBC) - Measles cases are are on the rise according to a new report from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts say the spike is due to the combination of international travelers mixing with unvaccinated Americans.
The virus was declared eliminated in the United States 12 years ago, but cases are once again popping up.
"We had 222 reported cases last year, this was the highest number of reported measles cases since 1996," notes the CDC's Jane Seward.
A majority of cases are triggered by international tourists who bring the virus into the U.S. or Americans who become infected when traveling abroad.
Countries like France, Italy and the United Kingdom had thousands of measles cases in 2011 alone.
Travelers can spread the virus to unvaccinated people.
Three-quarters of the kids in the U.S. who got measles in 2011 were not vaccinated due to personal beliefs.
"Parents have withheld their children from vaccination for a variety of reasons so we have groups of susceptibles out there, so when the disease is imported from abroad it can spread among the susceptibles," says Vanderbilt University's Dr. William Schaffner.
Doctors say measles is extremely contagious.
People can become infected by merely being in the same room as someone carrying the virus.
Symptoms include fever, rash and inflamed eyes.
While most cases are not fatal, many are severe.
"About a third of the cases last year were hospitalized," Seward says.
With the London Olympic Games just around the corner public health officials are hoping travelers take the time to get vaccinated.
CDC experts say children should get two doses of the measles vaccine, the first at 12 to 15 months old, the second around age 4.
Infants traveling internationally may be able to get the vaccine early at 6 months old.
College students, healthcare workers and anyone traveling abroad should talk to their doctors about getting vaccinated.
Anyone born before 1957 is considered naturally immune to the virus.
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