Inslee declares state of emergency over Washington measles outbreak

Grant Boone
February 1, 2019

Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Michael Mendoza says the two latest cases of measles are siblings and he says they may have had contact with the initial case of measles involving that toddler earlier in January.

"If someone has been in one of these places where a person with infectious measles was present and they developed symptoms with fever, cough, runny nose, or red itchy eyes, we want them to call a healthcare provider to let them know they've been exposed", says Leman. All school-age children, university students and those traveling out of the country and born on or after January 1, 1970 should have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, as should health-care workers born on or after January 1, 1957.

A measles outbreak is sweeping through Portland, a hotspot for the anti-vaccination movement, and neighboring Clark County in Washington state.

Because of widespread use of the vaccine, measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.

"Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease that can be fatal in small children", Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement.

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Twenty-six of the cases were not vaccinated and the other four are unverified. Two doses are about 97 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Authorities say nine additional cases are suspected.

Inslee said the number of cases "creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties".

With measles apparently making a comeback in the U.S., Seattle Children's Hospital pediatrician Douglas J. Opel said that preventive steps need to be made urgently. To date, a single case of measles was reported in BC in 2019 in an adult traveller returning from the Philippines. As of yesterday, there are 25 confirmed cases in Clark County and one confirmed case in King County. Exposed non-immune individuals are offered preventive measures including vaccine.

The state of emergency directs state agencies and departments to use their resources to assist affected areas in their response.

In BC, measles vaccine uptake is assessed in children at the 2 and 7 birthdays. In order to ensure interruption of transmission of measles in populations, a level of population immunity of 95 per cent is recommended. The last large outbreaks of measles in BC were in 2014 and 2010.

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