Surge in measles cases continues: California now has 32 in 2014

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The number of measles cases continues to rise in California, hitting 32 statewide as of Friday, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

By this time last year, there had only been three cases.

Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a highly contagious airborne virus. It was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, but there are still between 4 and 40 cases a year in California, almost all of which involve people who traveled abroad, the CDPH said. 

Officials say seven of this year’s cases have been in people who visited the Philippines, where there’s a large measles outbreak. Two had traveled to India, and one to Vietnam, both countries where measles is endemic.

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"With an outbreak in the Philippines and measles transmission ongoing in many parts of the world outside of North and South America, we can expect to see more imported cases of this vaccine-preventable disease," said Dr. Ron Chapman, the state's public health director.

The CDPH first expressed concern about measles in February, when it reported 15 cases statewide. At the time, it said that at least seven of the cases involved people who were intentionally not vaccinated. A CDPH spokeswoman said Friday that the agency would need to do some research to determine whether any of the 17 new cases involved unvaccinated people.  

California allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children if they fill out a form stating they don’t believe in vaccinations. But public health officials don't want anyone to forego the vaccination. They urge everyone who’s old enough to get the two doses of measles vaccine necessary for protection against the disease.

Children can get their first dose starting around their first birthday, and adults anytime. Health officials say it's especially important to get vaccinated before traveling.

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