Measles cases in Michigan are on the rise

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The threat is real and doctors are getting more concerned about the spread of measles in Michigan, especially in Ingham County.

There have been 14 new cases confirmed in the Detroit area, making the total to 22 cases in all.

According to doctors, Ingham County's vaccination rate is low. In fact, experts say it's low enough that the disease could establish itself there. Because the vaccine has been around for nearly 70 years, many people don't remember how widespread and dangerous measles used to be.

"The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated." Dr. Jonathan Gold said. Dr. Gold is a professor at MSU and a part of the Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, but lower vaccine rates and more foreign visitors are giving it a foot-hold again. Before the vaccine came out in the 1960s, measles killed upwards of seven million children around the world every year.

"People would be afraid. They would be afraid of their children's lives when there was a measles epidemic. It's not an exaggeration to say that there were life-threatening sort of concerns," Dr. Gold said.

Dr. Gold says doctors are also on the lookout here in Mid-Michigan. Especially with Ingham County being one of the lesser-vaccinated counties in the state.

"Most experts say you really want to have close to 90 percent or more of the people in the community who are vaccinated and if you have that there is very little risk that measles will be able to grab hold of the community. And we're below 80."

So even though measles hasn't crept into the area, that doesn't mean we are in the clear. Doctors say it's not only important to get the shot to protect yourself, but also those who are unable to get vaccinated due to medical concerns.

"I don't want to spread panic....but I just want people to be thoughtful about making sure that they get their kids vaccinated. The true benefit of vaccination is when an entire community is vaccinated," Dr. Gold said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 2019 is on track to have the most cases of measles in the U.S. since 1992.

Symptoms of measles include a rash, fever, cough, pink eye, and a runny nose. Contact your health care provider if you think you've been exposed for more signs and symptoms and a list of locations that the disease may have been contracted.