2011 saw 222 cases of measles in United States, more than thrice the number of cases in 2010 said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a new report issued on Thursday. This is the highest number of cases reported in the country in 15 years.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S in 2000. Most of the cases were either linked or were reported from travellers. CDC says that close to 90 percent of the measles cases reported in the U.S during 2008 were either acquired abroad or linked to imported cases.

In 2011, more than 30,000 cases of measles were reported in European countries, with France, Italy, Spain and Germany having the majority of cases, according to FoxNews.

The disease had made recent headlines across the world when a person with measles attended the Super Bowl XL VI, prompting officials to issue a warning to those in attendance.

Measles is highly contagious and spreads through air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. The symptoms for the disease include fever, rash, cough and runny nose. CDC says that the incidence of measles is rare in countries that are able to keep vaccination levels high.

Measles can be prevented through the combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. This vaccination is recommended for all children ages 12 to 15 months with booster shots at the age of 4 to 6 years. Since the widespread use of this vaccine, the U.S has seen a reduction by more than 99% in the number of measles cases.

Many studies and media reports have suggested that parents do not get their children vaccinated because of religious beliefs or they feel that the disease is eliminated from U.S.

“For many parents, they don’t think there is a threat of disease, they think these diseases are gone,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said. “Unfortunately, measles is not gone”.

Then there are parents who question the safety of these vaccines.

“More than 30 percent of the responding pediatricians have dismissed families because of their refusal to immunize. Suburban physicians caring for wealthier, better educated families experience more vaccine concerns and or refusals and are more likely to dismiss families for vaccine refusal. Vaccine refusals have a negative impact on one third of physician respondents”, reports Dr. Susan Leib, and colleagues in a study that found how physicians respond to parental safety concerns about vaccines.

Worldwide, there are estimated 20 million cases of measles and 164,000 deaths each year, according to CDC.