Published: Tue, January 29, 2019
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Washington declares public health emergency after measles outbreak of mostly unvaccinated children

Washington declares public health emergency after measles outbreak of mostly unvaccinated children

On January 25, Governor Jay Inslee declared a local public health emergency in all counties of Washington State, where many people (mostly unvaccinated children) have become infected with measles.

Twenty-six of the confirmed patients had not been vaccinated against measles, and the vaccination status of four others who were infected is unknown. One child has been hospitalized. Of those cases, 24 confirmed cases involved children 10 years or younger, and nine more involved children between the ages of 11 and 18, ABC News reported.

Measles was eradicated in the USA after a safe and cheap vaccine was developed in 1963, but in recent years, outbreaks from NY to California have sickened hundreds. Clark County Public Health Officer Alan Melnick told the paper that if vaccination rates don't go up in the area, the state could be seeing more incidents like this one moving forward. "Clearly this is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it wouldn't surprise me if we were in the seven figures by the time we're done here", he said.

"We have not had a case here but we're closely watching the outbreak in Washington and possibly OR, to kind of see whats happening there, we kind of expect there will be more cases", said Sarah Correll, an Epidemologist in Idaho.

Last week, a person infected with measles attended a Portland Trail Blazers home game in OR amid the outbreak.

Though the measles MMR vaccine has been highly effective since it was first widely distributed in the United States in 1968, there has been a rising trend of parents deciding against vaccinating their children. Because some people like to claim personal exemptions to getting the vaccine.

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Most people receive the MMR vaccine against measles at a young age, making the risk of contracting the infection very low. A current statewide case count for the measles outbreak is available on DOH's website and will be updated daily.

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There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

As of Monday there 35 confirmed cases in Clark County and one case in King County.

Two doses of the measles vaccine protect against measles in 97% of cases, according to the CDC. Patients remain contagious for four days after they develop the rash.

Those who are unvaccinated, travel internationally to developing countries or have a vitamin A deficiency are more likely to catch the disease.

Earlier this week, authorities were successful in identifying several people who had been exposed but were not sick yet. Symptoms such as high fever, rash all over the body, stuffy nose and red eyes typically disappear without treatment within two or three weeks. It can cause serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis, and can be deadly.

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