Measles outbreak grows in northwest USA, 31 cases reported

Faith Castro
January 29, 2019

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is warning the public after measles outbreaks in areas of Washington State in the U.S.

There are 25 confirmed cases in Clark County, and a single known case in King County after a man in his 50s contracted measles and was hospitalized following a recent trip to Vancouver, according to a news release from Inslee's office.

Last year, there were 17 outbreaks and about 350 cases of measles in the U.S.

As of Saturday, there are 32 confirmed cases of measles in Washington - an outbreak that has already prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency. For now, public health officials are focused on preventing additional exposure. While it is expected that most travellers will be immune to measles, some individuals will be susceptible, including infants less than one year old or people who have never been immunized against measles.

Measles is highly contagious and can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. As of Friday, Clark County Public Health had posted even higher numbers, with 30 confirmed and nine suspected cases.

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William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, estimates that the measles immunization is about 98 percent effective in protecting people from the illness.

As a precaution, the BCCDC is advising residents, and border crossers especially, to review and, if necessary, update their vaccines, the best protection against measles.

"So we can expect to continue to see cases related to this outbreak for many weeks and probably many months". For the most recent years of data available, 87.3 per cent of children turning two had received one dose of measles vaccine, and 88.4 per cent of children turning seven had received two doses, based on data in the provincial immunization registry reported by BC health authorities. Because measles is contagious before people realize they are sick, people who are not vaccinated may spread the disease without knowing.

Every time an unvaccinated person who has been exposed to measles goes out in public, "it starts that clock over again", Armstrong said. Those people stayed home and later got ill, Armstrong said. Complications from the disease, such as swelling of the brain, can be deadly.

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