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Measles Hits 20-Year High In U.S.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Measles was eliminated in the year 2000 from the United States, but a lot can change in a few years. Today, the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention says the infection rate is at a 20-year high for measles. There have been 288 cases reported for the first five months of 2014. A couple of weeks ago we spoke to William Schaffner, who teaches preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University, about this very issue and he told us the huge factor in the outbreak is a lack of vaccinations.

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: The measles outbreaks are clearly occurring in populations whose parents have withheld their children from immunization. They remain susceptible. Some of those children then travel abroad, encounter measles, bring it back into the United States. They become ill, and then it spreads among other unvaccinated children. And those children frequently live in similar neighborhoods or attend the same schools.

SIMON: Now this is confirmed by the CDC, whose scientists believe that many of the outbreaks occurred after people travelled to the Philippines, which is experiencing a large outbreak of the disease. Ninety percent of all measles cases in the United States occur in people who are not immunized. Public health officials say the best way to avoid contracting measles is to get vaccinated. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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