BOSTON (CBS) — Measles is on the rise across the nation and a group of local researchers say they know why — not enough people are getting vaccinated against the deadly disease.

An estimated 173 people from 17 states were diagnosed with measles within the last week, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new report by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital found that low vaccination rates were the driving force for the current measles outbreak.

The outbreak may have started in Disneyland in January when dozens of people visiting the theme park – most of whom were children — were diagnosed with the disease.

According to Dr. Maimuna Majumber, the study’s author, and a research fellow at Health Math Computational Epidemiology Group at Boston Children’s Hospital, many parents of unvaccinated children may not understand the severity of the disease.

Those who are able to be vaccinated but choose not to pose a risk to those who cannot get the vaccine, Majumber said.

“Children who are immunocompromised – who have cancer, for instance – are quite likely to have adverse effects if they contract measles,” said Majumber.

“The people who are in need of the most protection, who have these adverse effects, are the very people that can’t be immunized and rely on their friends and family and neighbors to be immunized to protect them.”

The researchers looked into recent measles cases, including those reported by the California Department of Public Health.  They used a mathematical model to calculate vaccine rates based on the communities where the disease spread.

In communities where outbreaks occurred, between 50 to 86 percent of people were vaccinated against measles – far less than the 96 to 99 percent needed to protect against disease.

Researchers said their findings were preliminary and are limited to the current cluster of outbreaks.

Their findings were published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern reports

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