Measles on the Rise: Here is What You Need to Know
A significant measles outbreak in the United States has federal health officials sounding a warning, especially for adults and children who haven\'t been vaccinated against the disease.

Officials with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say 64 cases of measles have been reported from January through late April this year, more than the total number of cases in 2006, and the highest number during this four-month period since 2001. None of the cases have been fatal.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that grows in the cells lining the lungs and the back of the throat. Symptoms include a rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. The illness lasts about a week and complications can include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, seizures and death, according to the CDC.

This year\'s outbreaks have been aggravated by a rise in measles outbreaks worldwide and by people who are opting out of the measles vaccine because of religious beliefs or concerns about reports of an unproven link between the vaccine and autism, CDC officials say.

This year\'s measles outbreaks have included 22 cases in New York City, 12 in San Diego and 15 in Arizona, with patients ranging in age from 5 months to 71 years. Fourteen patients were hospitalized, and 63 were either unvaccinated or had unknown or undocumented vaccination status, according to the CDC.

Health Care Workers Told to Isolate Patients

The CDC is warning doctors and nurses to take precautions when dealing with patients who have or may have the measles because the illness is so contagious. They advise doctors\' offices, hospitals and clinics not to keep children with fevers and rashes sitting in waiting rooms and not to bring them into examining rooms that a child suspected with measles has just left.

A vaccination for measles was introduced in 1963. Before that, up to 4 million people suffered from measles each year in the United States. Of those, approximately 500 died from the disease, 48,000 were hospitalized and 1,000 developed a chronic disability. Children today should receive two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine - the first between 12 and 15 months of age and the second between ages 4 and 6.

If you\'re worried about your children or other members of your family, check immunization records to be sure everyone has been vaccinated.

- Deirdre Wilson