Anti-Vax Hotspot Prompts Public Health Emergency

Alicia Farmer
February 1, 2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency Friday after dozens came down with the highly infectious disease in Washington's southernmost county.

The Monroe County Department of Public Health says that two Canal View Elementary School students in the Spencerport School District have confirmed cases of measles.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 due to its vaccination program, but new outbreaks have been caused by travelers who brought the virus back from other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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. There has been one recorded case in King County, which is the area around Seattle.

Clark County, located across the Columbia River from Portland, Oreg., has confirmed 23 cases since January 1, reports Newsweek. Travelers infected overseas can bring the virus into the country and spread it, causing periodic outbreaks.

The CDC says that typically individuals get measles overseas in areas where immunization rates are low, and then spread the illness in pockets of unvaccinated people. Herd immunity happens when unvaccinated individuals are protected from infection because nearly everyone around them has been vaccinated and is immune to a disease. Although measles is usually considered a childhood disease, it can be contracted at any age.

- Confirm that your child has received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. People are contagious with measles for up to four days before and up to four days after the rash appears.

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Health officials have warned that people infected with the disease had visited schools, churches, a dentist's office, a Costco store, an Ikea store and the Portland airport.

Across the USA, 2 percent of children did not receive standard immunizations for non-medically exempt reasons in the 2017-2018 school year. The World Health Organization says that unvaccinated young children face the highest risk of measles and its complications, including death.

However, travellers to the affected communities are at potential risk of exposure to measles, because people with measles can infect others prior to the onset of symptoms like fever and rash.

"So we can expect to continue to see cases related to this outbreak for many weeks and probably many months". The virus can lead to pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

"Some people say, 'Why would you get vaccinated for something that is no worse than a cold?'" says Leman.

With measles apparently making a comeback in the US, preventive steps need to be made urgently.

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