Health officials urging parents to vaccinate children against measles

With the number of measles cases reported in the United States at its highest since 1996, public health officials have begun to urge parents to vaccinate their children earlier in certain instances.

The majority of reported measles cases in the United States this year have been associated with importation from abroad. According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 118 cases in 2011 so far, 105 have come from other countries. The largest numbers have come from Europe and Southeast Asia, reports.

Though none have resulted in encephalitis or death, 40 percent of the cases have required a period of hospitalization.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but there have been a median of 56 cases in the country annually, most of them spread by travelers.

The CDC is recommending for the first time that children as young as six months receive the MMR vaccine before travel in order to halt the spread of the disease.

“It’s nothing to sneer at,” Peter Wenger, a pediatrician at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said, according to “It’s a pretty significant disease.

Wegner said that the measles, characterized by a red rash, is extremely contagious. He said that more vaccinations would be a plus for health policy in general.

The World Health Organization reported global deaths from the measles at 164,000 in 2008, a 78 percent drop from 2000, following a global push for vaccinations.