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

Grant Boone
January 30, 2019

So why the emergency declaration? Infected droplets from the individual with measles can spray into the air or land on a surface, where they remain active and contagious for hours. Castrodale said an outbreak of the disease requires a large number of unvaccinated people, but no data was immediately available on what proportion of Alaskans have received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Forty-seven states - all but California, Mississippi and West Virginia - allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have religious beliefs against immunizations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Most of the cases have been in kids.

Public health officials in southwest Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland, said people may have been exposed to measles at more than three dozen locations, including Portland International Airport, a Portland Trail Blazers game, an Amazon Locker location and stores such as Costco and Ikea, the AP reported. Measles can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and even simply by breathing.

The MMR vaccine and MMRV vaccine are usually given in two doses to young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In Clark County, which borders on Portland, almost seven percent of children were exempted from required kindergarten entry vaccines in the 2017-2018 school year for non-medical reasons, according to Isaac Stanley-Becker of the Washington Post. In the 2004-2005 school year, 96 percent of Clark County kindergartners had been vaccinated against the measles, KATU 2 reports. By 2017-2018, only 84 percent of kindergartners had.

You should immunize your children.

The Washington Military Department, the release says, is organizing resources to assist the DOH and local officials in easing the effects on people, property and infrastructure.

"This never would have happened if all of those children were immunized, or even if majority were immunized". The agency noted the outbreaks were associated with travelers who brought measles back from Israel.

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A measles vaccine at Miami Children's Hospital on January 28, 2015. As of Monday, that number is up to 36, 35 of which are in kids under 18 years old.

You'll get the latest updates on this topic in your browser notifications. Twenty-four of the cases were in children between 1 and 10 years old.

But children who are immunocompromised - like those who are on steroids or who are undergoing chemotherapy, for example - are also unable to be vaccinated.

"The bottom line is, there's no surprise we're seeing this right now", Melnick said. "They're not going to be protected".

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Every time an unvaccinated person who has been exposed to measles goes out in public, "it starts that clock over again", Armstrong said.

Swanson worries that sometimes the media coverage about measles outbreaks makes it seem there is a nationwide crisis over vaccination, but that's not true. "I'm just so scared", she said. "Because the panic and frustration parents can feel is if their children are in a more vulnerable position because of decisions made by other people".

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