An illness considered eliminated in the United States since 2000 has now reached a 15 year high. YNN's Erin Clarke tells us why measles is becoming a concern again and how Americans can protect themselves.
UNITED STATES – Two-hundred-twenty-two cases of measles were reported last year in the U.S. An alarming number considering that between 2000 and 2010, the country saw about 60 cases a year.
"We have a problem with outbreaks, mostly with measles coming into the country from outside," said Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Joe Domachowske.
Of the 222 cases, 200 people were infected overseas or caught the illness from someone who traveled abroad. The countries experiencing a rise in the virus may be a surprise.
"Most of the measles is coming into the U.S. from developed areas of Europe, places that you wouldn't think measles would be, like Paris and London, because vaccine rates in those parts of the country have really sagged there over the last decade or so," said Dr. Domachowske.
There were no cases of measles in Central New York in 2011. In fact, the majority of New York state cases reported were concentrated downstate, but those still pose a concern for everyone.
"People get from place to place pretty easily. We have to be concerned that our population could be at risk should someone enter our community that is incubating Measles," said Dr. Domachowske.
The virus is highly contagious. Protection is as simple as getting vaccinated.
"We start vaccinating against measles infection at a year of age," said Dr. Domachowske.
Infants born to moms who were vaccinated actually have some immunity to measles, but if young children will be traveling out of the U.S., doctors can give them a shot as early as six months.
"The vaccines that we use are the safest and most effective thing that we do in medicine and to have an instrument like that and not use it is really inappropriate," said Dr. Domachowske.
Bottom line, doctors say if you're not getting vaccinated for a preventable disease, you're putting yourself and your community at risk.
People of any age can get the measles vaccine, unless they are allergic to it or have some other medical reason why the shot cannot be administered.
People born before 1957 may have been presumed immune to the virus, but should consider getting a shot if they plan to travel abroad or be around people who have.