Sudden outbreak of measles prompts emergency declaration, renews vaccination debate

Grant Boone
February 8, 2019

"The virus can stay in a room for two hours after someone with the disease has been in there". Washington and NY, which has seen about 200 people infected with measles in recent months, are the only states with current outbreaks, the agency says.

Clark County also listed 11 suspected cases of measles.

- One case of measles has been confirmed in Bell County.

The Portland area is an anti-vaccination hot spot, and state data show only about 77 percent of Clark County kindergarteners had completed their vaccinations for the 2017-2018 school year, far below the roughly 95 percent of people that health experts say should be vaccinated to create "herd immunity" against a contagious disease like measles. But it can also lead to serious, life-threatening complications, including blindness, inflammation of the brain and pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, before the introduction of measles vaccination in 1963, the virus caused 2.6 million deaths every year.

Measles cases are surfacing across the country as an outbreak tied to the highly contagious viral infection continues to spread.

So far in the USA this year, about 80 cases of measles have been reported, with two outbreaks ongoing in Washington and NY states.

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Most of the infections have occurred in children, under age 18, who were unvaccinated.

Across the US, 10 states - California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington - reported 79 confirmed measles cases in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three times as many people have gotten vaccinated in January - from 200 per day in 2018 to 600 per day in 2019.

"It can be on surfaces", explained Dr. Phil Huang, Medical Director and Health Authority for Austin Public Health. People who have never received a measles vaccine are susceptible to the disease, which can be deadly.

Only two provinces, Ontario and New Brunswick, require children to have updated vaccination records in order to enter school. Julie Graham, a public information officer with the Health Department, said those reports are inaccurate. Health officials say the shots are safe and effective, providing about 93 percent protection with one dose and 97 percent with two doses.

On Wednesday, officials sent letters to families of 5,000 children in Multnomah County, telling them they'll be excluded from school if they don't have up-to-date immunizations or valid exemptions by February 20.

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