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Measles Cases Spike to a 20-Year High in the U.S.

Update Date: May 30, 2014 03:01 PM EDT

According to the latest numbers calculated by federal health officials, the United States' measles cases are at an all time 20-year high. The officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the majority of the cases occurred in unvaccinated U.S. residents that traveled to other countries where measles is more prevalent.

"The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread [it] to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated," Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Anne Schuchat, who is also the director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said according to WebMD. "Many of the clusters in the U.S. began following travel to the Philippines, where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013."

The CDC reported that as of May 23, there were 288 reported measles cases. This total is the highest ever recorded since 1994 over the time span of the first five months. 280 of the cases or 97 percent involved people who were never vaccinated. The researchers also examined why the patients were not vaccinated. They found that 85 percent of them did not get the vaccine due to religious, philosophical or personal reasons.

So far, Ohio has the highest number of cases with 138 confirmed. California is second with 60 cases followed by 26 in New York. Overall, 43 patients, or a little over one in seven, needed to be hospitalized with pneumonia as the most common cause. No deaths have been reported.

"This is a wake-up call for travelers and parents to make sure vaccinations are up to date," Schuchat said according to the Washington Post. "Measles vaccine is very safe and effective and measles can be serious. It's very infectious."

Measles is a respiratory disease that is highly contagious. Symptoms of an infection include a fever followed by a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. As the infection progresses, people might develop rashes. The death rate is around one out of 1,000 people. The CDC report can be found here.

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