Measles Outbreak 2019: What Are the Symptoms, How Does It Spread?

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

Spokane health district urges vaccinations as Washington measles cases rise to 34

Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist for Hawaii, said Monday Washington public health officials told her office that the family had been exposed to measles as part of the ongoing outbreak in southwest Washington.

Since then nine new cases have been confirmed, all in Clark County, which borders Portland, Ore., creating concern in that state as well.

So why the emergency declaration?

"If you put a case of measles into a highly unvaccinated population, it can spread like wildfire", he said.

The virus, spread by coughing or sneezing, can remain in the air for up to two hours in an isolated space. Ninety percent of people exposed to measles who have not been vaccinated will get it, public health officials said.

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Vaccination rates in OR and Southwest Washington, where measles first broke out, are comparatively low.

Both Washington and OR allow vaccine exemptions for personal and philosophical reasons.

On January 25, Governor Jay Inslee declared a local public health emergency in all counties of Washington State, where many people (mostly unvaccinated children) have become infected with measles. So far, just one adult in the area has caught the disease. But measles is still a big problem in other parts of the world, and travellers infected overseas can bring the virus back and spread it, causing periodic outbreaks.

The CDC recommends people get the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to protect against those viruses. In Clark County, where 35 cases have been reported, 31 were not immunized. OR also has a high nonmedical exemption rate for vaccinations-one 2018 state analysis found a rate among kindergarteners of 7.5 percent, with the number for K-12 students climbing as high as 10 percent in some counties. By 2017-2018, only 84 percent of kindergartners had.

"The fact is, this never would have happened if all of those children were immunized, or even if majority were immunized", John Lynch, medical director of infection control at UW Medicine's Harborview Medical Center, told HuffPost.

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Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles, health officials say. The measles vaccine is 98 percent effective. One child has been hospitalized.

Over the last few years, flu vaccination effectiveness rate has hovered around 40 percent, which may lead to confusion about other vaccines.

A lot of kids who can't be vaccinated are now at risk.

. Officials believe the person was traveling internationally when they were exposed to measles.

One case also has been confirmed in King County, which is home to Seattle and one was confirmed Friday evening in Multnomah County, which is home to Portland.

But children who are immunocompromised - like those who are on steroids or who are undergoing chemotherapy, for example - are also unable to be vaccinated. "It's an uphill battle for us, as public health professionals, to try to get the right information out there". "They're not going to be protected".

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