Measles Outbreak Worsens in Washington State

Henrietta Brewer
January 30, 2019

The symptoms include fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, conjunctivitis, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background inside the inner linking of the cheek, and a skin rash.

There has also been an adult case. In neighboring OR, one case of measles has been confirmed in a resident of Multnomah County, which officials have linked to the Washington outbreak. Twenty-five of the 35 confirmed patients are children under 10 years old.

The governor has declared a public health emergency after 34 cases of the viral illness were confirmed.

Clark County officials have compiled a list of dozens of public places-among them stores, medical clinics, churches, schools and the Portland International Airport-where people may have been exposed to the infection. This means it is possible that if a person has not been immunized, they could still be spreading the infection without knowing they are.

Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963 measles was the single leading killer of children in the world. Two doses of the measles vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing the disease, the CDC says, but even just one dose (which is what most kids under age 4 have) is 93 percent effective.

Clark County has already spent more than $100,000 trying to contain the outbreak, and staff is being pulled from other duties, including restaurant inspections, he said.

All but eradicated from the United States thanks to comprehensive vaccination programs, measles is still endemic in other parts of the world, and once in a while it hitches a ride to our country via worldwide travel.

The groups often spread misinformation claiming a link between vaccines and autism.

Once upon a time, the United States had eliminated the measles, but outbreaks have increased as the anti-vaccine movement takes hold - and 18 states now allow for non-medical "philosophical" vaccination exemptions. Several metropolitan areas in the Northwest-Seattle, Spokane and Portland-have been identified as "hotspots" of vaccine opposition.

If a high percentage of a given population are immunized against a disease, vaccines can protect event those who are not immune.

Because measles is among the most highly contagious of all infectious diseases, it flares up in areas with low vaccination rates, Peter J. Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told the the Washington Post.

"This is something I've predicted for a while now", he says of the situation in Clark County. "It can have really serious complications. and it's entirely preventable with an incredibly cheap and safe vaccine", Melnick said.

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