BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Measles cases are on the rise across the country. Seventeen states are now reporting the illness.

Tracey Leong explains what area doctors are doing to stop the disease from hitting Maryland.

In this multi-state outbreak, there are 121 people with the measles. Health officials say the best form of protection is to get vaccinated.

A rallying cry across the nation for parents to vaccinate their children against measles, as the highly contagious and potentially fatal disease explodes across the nation.

“Disneyland became unsafe because parents didn’t vaccinate their children,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland Secretary of Health.

Some of the most brilliant minds in medicine are pulling together at Johns Hopkins to warn people there is only one line of defense.

“Vaccinations are imperative and very important and will save a child’s life,” said Dr. Gregory Branch, Baltimore County Department of Health.

Two doses of the measles vaccine has proven to be 97 percent effective.

While the measles outbreak hasn’t hit Maryland, health experts say it’s only a matter of time, which is why they are being proactive.

“It’s about our value to the community in educating the public about vaccines and protecting individuals,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Department commissioner.

Fifteen years ago, measles was thought to be eliminated. But now it’s back, and not slowing down.

Symptoms typically appear within a week after being infected, including a high fever, red eyes and a rash of tiny red spots that can spread to the entire body.

Unvaccinated people who have traveled abroad run the risk of getting the measles and then spreading it when they return to America.

It’s most commonly seen in countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

“This is why, though, we as public health officials and doctors have to join together and talk about protecting not only ourselves and our family and our patients, but also our communities at large,” said Dr. Wen.

Maryland has a religious and medical exemption for vaccinations, but health officials say this has not affected people from getting protection. Public schools in Baltimore City have a 99 percent vaccination rate.

Measles is especially dangerous for babies and children under five.