Scope of the Measles Outbreak and Why It's Worsening

Alicia Farmer
February 2, 2019

Washington state's measles outbreak now stands at 42 confirmed cases.

Across the state, 40 people were diagnosed with measles in January, and there have been at 186 cases since October, with the largest number of cases in Rockland, state health officials said.

Surrounding counties also have more than 90 percent of their school-age children protected from the measles.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel notice for Kazakhstan, where health officials have reported a measles outbreak. In recent years, however, the viral illness has popped up again from NY to California and sickened hundreds.

Clark County, where the first case was documented, has a 78 percent vaccination rate - far below the 95 percent required for "herd immunity" for such a contagious virus.

Public Health is not providing any additional information about the one case with one dose of MMR in order to protect the patient's privacy, according to the news release. "The recommended two doses of the measles vaccine provide even greater protection - 97 percent". "The best way to stop this outbreak in its tracks is to make sure that everybody gets vaccinated".

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Before mass vaccination, 400 to 500 people in the United States died of the measles every year, 50,000 people were hospitalized and 4,000 people developed brain swelling that can cause deafness, Melnick said. "There aren't any other alternatives to vaccination".

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak.

Officials haven't yet determined how the measles outbreak started. The first known patient sought medical care on December 31, but it isn't known if other people may have gotten sick before that and did not seek treatment. Many of those parents are part of a growing movement of "anti-vaxxers" who worry about the safety of vaccines.

But the vaccine is less effective in those under a year old and is generally not given to infants. Someone who has no immunity can get sick up to three weeks after they have been exposed to the virus. At least 43 people in Washington and OR have fallen ill in recent weeks with the extraordinarily contagious virus. DOH urges everyone to check their immunization records to verify that they are fully immunized and get vaccinated if they are not already. Symptoms usually appear 10-12 days after exposure but may appear as early as seven days and as late as 21 days after exposure. "I'm just so scared", she said.

"The virus can actually live for about two hours on surfaces and in the air".

Melnick shared some grim statistics: Before the measles vaccination, 400-500 people died from the highly contagious disease every year, 50,000 were hospitalized, and about 4,000 people developed brain swelling that could cause deafness.

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