In a letter dated Feb. 3, the Milford Health Department urged parents to immunize their children against measles.

“As you may be aware, the United States is experiencing a large multi-state measles outbreak that started at an amusement park in California in December,” the letter states. “The outbreak has spread to many states, including neighboring New York. During the month of January 2015, 102 people from 14 states were reported to have measles. Most of these cases are part of the multi-state outbreak which began in California. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.”

In the letter, which was sent to Milford families and posted on the Board of Education website, Health Director Deepa Joseph, School Medical Advisor Andrew Carlson and School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser say that measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus.

“It spreads easily through the air by coughing and sneezing,” the letter states.

Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat, and is followed by a rash that spreads all over the body.

The health officials say measles can be prevented.

“Based on state and national guidelines, the Milford Health Department recommends all children get two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Children can receive the second dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose, according to Milford’s health officials.

Teenagers and adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days, officials added.

Vaccines can have side effects, the letter states.

“But most children who get the MMR shot have no side effects,” according to the health department letter. “Almost everyone who has not had the MMR vaccine will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.”

Milford health officials encourage residents to contact their child’s primary care provider to get a vaccine. Also, the vaccine will be available at the Milford Health Department’s monthly immunization clinic on Tuesday, March 10, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Milford Health Department, 82 New Haven Avenue, next to the downtown fire station.