Austin doctors are warning parents to vaccinate against the measles

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning parents everywhere to vaccinate their children against the measles virus.

The measles is extremely contagious and this January the disease is spreading faster than previous years. So far this year there has been 84 measles cases in 14 states and one of them is Texas.

"We're now at that threshold where we think it may spread throughout America," said Dr. Coburn Allen, pediatrics infectious disease specialist at Dell Children's Medical Center.

Measles symptoms typically don't show up until a week after contracting the disease. That means people who seem perfectly healthy may be spreading the measles for several days without realizing it.

"The diseases we see, it's probably one of the most infectious out there," said Allen.

Doctors said there is an easy way for people to protect themselves from the measles.

"It's a disease that we don't have any treatment for it, so the only way you're going to prevent it is by vaccine," said Allen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a recent outbreak of the measles in California is largely because of an anti-vaccine movement.

"The reason frankly we haven't had measles cases in America is because enough of the population has been vaccinated and there hasn't been enough people coming in and spreading it that it has got those unvaccinated people ill until apparently this last year," said Allen.

Most children get a measles vaccination when they are one year old, but the Texas Department of State Health Services said 2.5 percent of Texas kindergarteners were completely unvaccinated during the 2013-2014 school year.

"Austin is one of those cities that does have a high population of unvaccinated children," said Allen.

Some parents choose not to vaccinate for religious reasons or because they had a bad experience with other vaccines. Doctors said there is no proven reason to avoid the measles vaccine.

"If there is, I'm a bad parent because I certainly make sure all my children are vaccinated," said Allen.

There have been some instances of people who were previously vaccinated against the measles becoming infected. Most of them were vaccinated before the 1980s.

"There's a recommendation out there, for those that have been a long period since the vaccine, that they may need a booster as well as health care workers," Allen said.

There have been no measles cases in Austin so far this year, but every time there is a large gathering of people, the chance for the disease to spread increases.

"People that aren't vaccinated, right now, this is your chance," said Allen.

Measles symptoms begin with fever, cough, congestion and watery eyes. After a short time a rash appears that starts at the head and moves down the body. It can be fatal.