Washington State Issues State of Emergency Over Measles Outbreak

Governor Jay Ipsee as declared a state public health emergency after more than two dozen measles cases have been reported primarily affecting small children

Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency affecting all of Washington on Friday due to an ongoing measles outbreak in two counties. Now, 35 cases have been confirmed in Clark County, a southwestern county that includes Vancouver, and 11 potential cases are awaiting confirmation. In 2018, six cases of measles were reported among BC residents: two cases acquired infection during travel out of Canada (India and Philippines, respectively), and four acquired infection from imported cases.

So why the emergency declaration?

Those infected with measles can spread the virus four days before and four days after the rash appears.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The CDC says that was the second-highest number of reported cases since measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000. Besides Washington and OR, there are 16 other USA states that give parents this option. Over the weekend, nine more cases were discovered. The vaccine is generally not given to children under a year old.

Thirty-one of those 35 people were unvaccinated. Eighteen had not been immunized, and it's unclear whether the remaining three were.

Measles is very easily spread from person to person.

Vaccination rates in OR and Southwest Washington, where measles first broke out, are comparatively low.

The threat also spread in the past few days; Deschutes County officials say someone visiting Bend on January 19 and 20 may have brought measles with them.

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"It's important that anyone who was at these locations and is experiencing possible symptoms of measles receives guidance on medical evaluation and treatment immediately", said Bob McDonald, executive director of Denver Public Health & Environment and the public health administrator for the City of Denver. It also says that the best protection against it remains the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Herd immunity happens when unvaccinated individuals are protected from infection because nearly everyone around them has been vaccinated and is immune to a disease.

All states require immunizations for children to attend school.

Indeed, recent measles outbreaks like the one in Disneyland in 2015 are thought to be fueled by vaccine refusal as vaccination rates drop below the levels needed to provide herd immunity. The disease is so contagious that 90 per cent of unvaccinated people who are exposed will catch it.

Though someone infected with measles attended the National Basketball Association game on January 11 at the Moda Center, no Oregon residents have been diagnosed with the virus, public health officials in Multnomah County, Oregon, said. However, up to 40 percent of patients have complications, usually occurring in children under five, adults over 20, and anyone who is undernourished or immunocompromised.

"We already send the letters to the parents", said principal Andrey Dolbinin.

These states have particularly high levels - or "hot spots" - of unvaccinated children, and are vulnerable to measles outbreaks, according to a study by Hotez and his colleagues that published past year. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

If you have a fever and a rash and you think you might have measles, you should avoid public settings and telephone your healthcare provider BEFORE going directly to a healthcare facility so steps can be taken to avoid possibly exposing others.

Swanson worries that sometimes the media coverage about measles outbreaks makes it seem there is a nationwide crisis over vaccination, but that's not true. And the region has been identified by health experts as an anti-vaccination hot spot. "I'm just so scared", she said. "Because the panic and frustration parents can feel is if their children are in a more vulnerable position because of decisions made by other people".

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