The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will announce its concerns this week that the number of measles cases in the U.S. is on the rise.  For the first eight months of the year, the CDC reports there were eight measles outbreaks and 159 cases of measles reported in the U.S. That number represents more cases since 1996 and represents a heightened risk for anyone who is unvaccinated.

An average year will see about 60 U.S. cases of measles and in 2000 it was declared to be “officially eliminated” by public health officials.

The cases may be coming from someone who’s had contact with someone infected while traveling overseas.

Even the Aztecs knew about measles.

Even the Aztecs knew about measles.

The CDC reports that among the measles cases reported this year, 82 percent of the individuals had not been vaccinated. There is a trend among parents who wish to avoid the controversies surrounding the childhood vaccinations of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and the mercury-based preservative used in multi-dose vials. Though largely ruled out now, some parents fear autism results from the MMR vaccine or the thimerosol preservative when given at a specific time in a young child’s life or to certain susceptible children.

Many parents do not remember the time when the infectious pediatric disease carried life-threatening implications. A vaccine was developed in the early 1960s and most children born before then have had measles. For every 1,000 cases of measles, the CDC reports there will be one or two fatalities from the disease.

The virus is contagious for about eight days and symptoms include fever, a dry cough, sore throat and a skin rash. Unfortunately, the virus can be transmitted four days before any symptoms appear. Bronchitis, pneumonia or encephalitis can result from a measles infection and encephalitis can be fatal to a young person.

Among the outbreaks this year, 65 cases were in New York City, 20 in Texas and 23 in North Carolina while 16 states have seen smaller outbreaks.  No deaths have been reported.  According to the CDC’s Weekly Morbidity and Mortality report, 91 percent of children have received the measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, 93 percent have been vaccinated for polio and 90 percent for hepatitis B and chickenpox. Just 0.8 percent of children have received no vaccines at all.

The CDC recommendation is for two doses of the MMR vaccine, one at 12 months and another at ages 4 through 6.