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CDC tells parents, doctors to watch for measles

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The Centers for Disease Control is telling parents and doctors to be on the look-out for measles. The U.S. is seeing the most cases so far this year since 1996.

It starts with a runny nose, cough and red eyes, followed by the rash and fever. Measles can cause pneumonia and other complications that kill. There are 120,000 deaths worldwide each year. But in this country?

"The problem is very few people especially younger parents have ever seen measles, so the seriousness of the disease is just not appreciated," said Dr. Stephen Lauer, a pediatrician at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Dr. Lauer says the pushback by some parents against vaccination is one factor in the rise in cases. There have been 129 cases in 13 states so far this year. The closest to Kansas City have been in western Illinois. Dr. Lauer said when parents don't get their kids vaccinated, they are vulnerable.

"It sets up a problem with susceptibility in the population and then as people travel to other countries where there's measles and come back here, now there's a population at risk to be infected," he said.

In the Phillipines, there have been 20,000 measles cases this year alone.

"It's almost completely preventable by the vaccine and so we have to stay vigilant about this," said Dr. Lauer.

Measles is a virus spread by sneezes or cough. Major doctors' groups are telling docs -- most of whom have never seen a case -- that they need to suspect it if they see a recent traveler with a fever and rash.

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