Graph of U.S. measles cases per year shows 2014 spike. Graphic by CDC

Measles – a disease that was officially eliminated in the United States in 2000 – is back, and it’s making headlines thanks to a recent outbreak linked to a popular theme park. According to the California Department of Public Health, as of Jan. 26, there are 73 cases in the state, 50 of which stem from patients who visited Disneyland in December and January. CDPH officials have also confirmed Disneyland-related cases in five other U.S. states – Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Utah and Washington – as well as Mexico.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a health advisory notifying public health across the country about the outbreak and providing guidance for health care providers.

A majority of the recent confirmed measles cases in California contracted the disease as a result of being unvaccinated. According to CDC, two doses of measles-containing vaccine, also known as the MMR vaccine, are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles.

“If you have symptoms, and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider. Unless you have an emergency, it is best to contact your health care provider by phone to prevent spread in doctor’s offices,” said Ron Chapman, MD, director of CDPH and state health officer. “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.”

Measles is a highly infectious, airborne disease, and can spread easily among groups of people who are unvaccinated. While measles cases have decreased dramatically over the last decade in the U.S., the disease is still common in other parts of the world. Unvaccinated people in the U.S. are still vulnerable to contracting the disease, because visitors and unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from other countries can unknowingly bring measles into the country. The CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases reported that the U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases last year, with 644 cases from 27 states, the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.

There are many precautions you can take to protect yourself and others from measles. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, or the status of your family members, visit your health care provider to have a test to check for measles immunity or to receive vaccination. If you are preparing to travel abroad, you can find information about travel vaccines on CDC’s website. Check out APHA’s Get Ready fact sheets for more general information about vaccines, and the importance of vaccines for kidsteens and adults.

APHA’s “Control of Communicable Diseases Manual” provides public health guidance for controlling the spread of measles and other infectious diseases.