NEW YORK – There have been almost 300 reported cases of measles infections in the U.S. this year. That’s the highest it has been in the last two decades, reported by the CDC.

Though the year still isn’t over, the U.S. has had 288 recorded cases in 18 states and New York City as of May 23. This number has been climbing mostly due to Amish populations in Ohio, where a whopping 138 infections were recorded before the report even came out.

The number of measles cases for this time of year has been higher in the last few months than in the last individual 20 years. In 1994, 764 cases were recorded by May in the U.S. According to Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, one outbreak in Ohio resulted in 233 cases that year.

“This year, we are breaking records for measles,” Schuchat said. “This is a wake-up call.”

Besides the Amish communities, measles have been spreading due to unprotected travelers who are bringing the disease back to their hometowns. The goal, then, is to get more people vaccinated, especially when they are traveling to places that are known the spread to measles.

“We can stop this from being an even greater problem if people who are not vaccinated get their vaccines,” said Schuchat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 97 percent of the reported measles infections have originated in other countries. 70 percent of the people who got the disease were not vaccinated, while the status of the vaccination could not be confirmed in about 20 percent. Only 10 percent of people who got measles had received at least one dose of the vaccination.

Measles can infect people of all ages, with the cases ranging from people less than a year old to people older than 65 years of age, said the CDC. While one of the most common complications of the disease is pneumonia, no deaths have been recorded yet.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can travel through the air. It can linger in the air for hours after a cough, and can infect people even if the person carrying the disease is nowhere in sight. Some of the more common symptoms of measles include rashes, coughing, pink eye, a runny nose, and a fever.

It is recommended that anyone traveling internationally get vaccinated, especially young babies. In doing so, the spread of the disease will hopefully slow down and less U.S. citizens will become infected.

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