Once eradicated in USA, measles outbreak sickens 35 in two states

Grant Boone
January 30, 2019

One or two of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from complications, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The existence of 26 confirmed cases in the state of Washington creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties". In recent years, however, the viral illness has popped up again from NY to California and sickened hundreds.

Clark County, the heart of the measles outbreak, has a vaccination rate of only 84.5 percent for kindergarteners when it comes to the measles.

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

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 CDC says one of the reasons for the increase in cases is the spread of the disease in communities with pockets of unvaccinated people. Those people stayed home and later got ill, Armstrong said.

They announced Monday that others could have been infected at the popular Oregon Museum of Science & Industry in Portland and a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the bedroom community of Vancouver, Washington.

Thirty-one of the confirmed patients had not been vaccinated against measles.

The vaccination status of four others who were infected is unknown.

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What is measles, how does it spread?

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. The first known patient sought medical care on December 31, but it is unknown if other people may have gotten sick before that and did not seek treatment.

The first vaccine gives you a 93 percent protection against the measles and the second dose raises the effectiveness to 97 percent.

Pediatrician Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor College of Medicine's National School of Tropical Medicine, told NPR there is a very-aggressive anti-vaccine lobby throughout the Pacific Northwest that have effectively driven up the rates of vaccine non-compliance, leaving scores of children vulnerable to the infection.

Jocelyn Smith is terrified her youngest son, who is 11 months, will get measles.

"I haven't taken the baby in public for 10 days". The virus can live for up to two hours wherever an infected person has coughed or sneezed.

People may have been exposed to the disease at about four dozen locations, including Portland International Airport and a Portland Trail Blazers game, county health officials said. Symptoms such as high fever, rash all over the body, stuffy nose and red eyes typically disappear without treatment within two or three weeks.

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