TODAY   |  April 25, 2014

CDC reports largest rise in measles in 2 decades

Dr. Roshini Raj joins TODAY to discuss new concerns over outbreaks of the disease, which is rapidly on the rise.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> alarm being sounded by the centers for disease control over the measles. this year alone, 129 people have been infected in 13 states . it's the biggest outbrek to begin a year in nearly two decades and the cdc is now urging parents to vaccinate your children. "today" contributor is an assistant professor of medicine at nyu langone medical center . measles was eradicated in this country back in 2000 . here we have the biggest outbreak in a couple of decades. is this the beginning of some kind of national health crisis, or is it being blown out of proportion?

>> it's definitely alarming. let's look at the numbers. before we had a widespread vaccination program , we were seeing 500,000 cases a year. once vaccination became more widespread, it was about 60 cases a year. now in the first four months this year, we're already over 120. those numbers are considered an outbreak or an epidemic.

>> in california , 58 cases. new york, 26 infections. washington state , 13. some other states, texas, massachusetts, new jersey, and so on. 13 states . do you see any pattern or any reason that jumps out at you when you look at those 13 states ?

>> well, when you think about states new york and california , the population is bigger. but people that are traveling internationally tend to come to these places. and unfortunately, the more sort of sophisticated states are where some parents are thinking, maybe i don't need to vaccinate my child, which is a mistake.

>> in california , of the 58 cases, 25 of those were people who had not been immunized. 19 of those weren't immunized because of philosophical reasons. let me read you something that william shafner, an infectious disease doctor said. he said the low rate of immunizations because of rumors and conspiracy theories and said that young parents today haven't seen these diseases and they don't respect or fear them. do you agree with that?

>> i do agree with it. people don't think of these diseases as deadly, but they absolutely can be. we're talking about measles, muches, whooping cough. a resurgence of diseases that really should not be around anymore if people are doing the vaccines that they should be getting.

>> are young doctors trained to recognize the symptoms of these diseases, because they haven't been around in a while?

>> it's tough. we learn about it in medical school , but if you don't see something often, you're not going to be thinking about that first off when you see a patient. so this is a wake-up call for doctors and training programs to recognize these symptoms.

>> once you're infected with the virus, how quickly do these symptoms present themselves?

>> usually within seven to ten days. the symptoms are fever, runny nose, sore throat. sounds like a typical cold and that's the problem here. but then several days later, you're going to develop that characteristic red splotchy rash. starts in the face, goes through entire body and white spots in your mouth.

>> the message from the cdc to parents is get your children vaccinated.

>> absolutely. there's really no other reason for it.

>> doc, thanks very much.