Washington governor declares state of emergency over measles outbreak

Faith Castro
January 29, 2019

A public health emergency in Washington State is catching the attention of Idaho Health Officials after dozens of confirmed measles cases.

Twenty-six of the confirmed patients had not been vaccinated against measles, and the vaccination status of four others who were infected is unknown.

As of Sunday afternoon, those figures were 34 cases in Clark County (mostly children) and one case in King County (an adult who had visited the affected area).

Most of the cases have been in children younger than 10, according to a statement from the Clark County Public Health Department in Washington.

Measles was eradicated in the US after a safe and cheap vaccine was developed in 1963, but in recent years, outbreaks from NY to California have sickened hundreds. Clark County's immunization rate for school-aged children is 78 percent, and a large majority of these cases were in children who were not vaccinated. Measles can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and even simply by breathing.

Eighteen states including Washington allow parents to decide not to vaccinate their children due to moral, personal, or other beliefs. "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. "Almost everyone who is not immune will get measles if they are exposed to the virus".

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Before the vaccine, 400 to 500 people died from the measles each year, 50,000 people were hospitalized and 4,000 people developed brain swelling that can cause deafness, he said. "The best protection against measles is vaccination".

Washington and OR are among the country's many states that allow parents with a personal OR philosophical objection to decline the measles vaccination, among some others.

Clark County Public Health has identified 35 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases since January 1, when it first began investigating the outbreak. The CDC says the measles vaccine is 97% effective if the first dose is given at one year old and the second at five years old. Although it's not clear where he became infected, the man said he'd recently traveled to Clark County. Patients remain contagious for four days after they develop the rash.

Most of the people who have contracted the disease were not vaccinated. Serious complications such pneumonia and brain infections can arise from the disease in some cases.

Measles usually manifests as a combination of high fever, as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit, along with what is known as the three Cs: cough, coryza (another word for runny nose), and conjunctivitis or pink eye, Sammons explained.

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