The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates vaccines save millions of lives every year. Even so, some parents choose not to vaccinate.

Alaska's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lily Lou said that fact may be behind a recent rash of measles cases in the U.S.

"We are seeing a comeback of diseases that can be prevented by one of the few absolutely proven interventions in healthcare," Lou said.

Measles were believed to be eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but the disease resurfaced with a vengeance in 2014. This year alone, the CDC reports more than 600 cases in the Lower 48. So far there have been no confirmed cases in Alaska, but Lou said the highly contagious disease could certainly make its way here, and if it does the results could be deadly.

"One out of four patients might need to be hospitalized and one in a thousand will either not survive a case of measles or they might get a serious brain complication like encephalitis or even something that can happen later," she said.

health officials encourage parents to make sure their children are vaccinated against the measles

Lou said people can protect themselves by making sure they and their children are vaccinated.

One place that offers low-cost or even free vaccines in Anchorage is the Municipal Health Department. A weekday, walk-in clinic provides vaccinations on a sliding-fee scale for both children and adults.

Municipal public health nurse Maggie Ryan said the measles vaccine, which is usually delivered in combination with a mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) in childhood, provides lifelong immunity and does not require a booster shot. She said adults who didn't receive it as children should consider getting it now.

Health officials are also reminding Alaskans that while measles has not made an appearance in Alaska, mumps — another disease prevented by vaccines — has flared-up in the state. The Alaska Department of Epidemiology reported a large mumps outbreak in 2017 and 2018. Lou said many people received vaccinations at that time that would also cover them for the measles.

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