U.S. measles cases quadrupled in 2011

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on Thursday that measles cases quadrupled in the United States in 2011.

Despite the increase, outbreaks of the infectious disease are still rare compared to the likelihood of outbreaks in Europe. There were 222 cases of measles in the United States last year, the New York Times reports.

One-third of all U.S. measles cases required hospitalization. Many of the 17 outbreaks were traced back to beginning in foreign visitors or Americans returning from abroad, typically from Europe. The virus is then spread to children who have not received vaccinations against the highly contagious disease.

Because the resistance against vaccination is concentrated in particular communities, children tend to be more vulnerable. There were 37,000 European measles cases last year, where more people tend to resist getting vaccinations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is a viral respiratory disease that typically infects the cells lining the back of the lungs and throat. Measles can cause runny nose, cough, fever and a rash all over the body. Complications from measles include ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis and death. Measles kills close to 200,000 people around the world each year. The disease spreads through the air by coughing, breathing and sneezing, and will usually infect any children who come into contact with it who have no immunity.