JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A deadly disease doctors eliminated from the United States 13 years ago is once again a public health concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Numbers released by the CDC Thursday show an increasing number of parents are choosing not to get their children vaccinated against measles.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus, according to the CDC. It can result in serious health complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis, and even cause death. Measles kills more than 100,000 children in the world each year.
"In the year 2000, it was deemed eliminated, which means that basically that we didn't have it circulating in our population. So, the only cases that are showing up are the outbreak cases that you're seeing now where an individual comes from an area where it's endemic and then brings it into the United States," said Dr. Shane Speights, St. Bernards Vice President of Medical Affairs.
According to the CDC, there were 159 measles cases in the U.S. from January 1, 2013 to August 24, 2013. Since the disease was eliminated, the highest number of cases occurred in 2008 with 140 cases, and 2011 with 220 cases.
Researchers say if the trend continues, cases in 2013 will surpass the number of cases in 2008 and 2011.
"When we look at certain surveys and sample sizes the biggest reason people are giving why they're not getting vaccinated is for philosophical reasons or religious reasons," said Dr. Speights.
In the CDC report, nearly two thirds of the cases came from outbreaks in communities where people chose not to vaccinate in the name of religion or personal philosophy.
"Obviously, it's a still a personal choice. A parent or caregiver makes that choice for themselves and their child. It really should be an educated and informed choice though."
Dr. Shane Speights advises talking with a trusted medical professional about the vaccine.
"I would really hesitate for those individuals that want to just listen to a blog site or hearsay. Really this a conversation you need to have with your healthcare provider," said Dr. Speights. "It's important to know that this disease is largely one we don't have to have because if you'll just get the vaccine you'll be protected."