Officials Urge Vaccinations Amid Northwest Measles Outbreak

Washington governor declares state of emergency over measles outbreak

Measles outbreak prompts state of emergency declaration by Washington governor

The governor has declared a public health emergency after 34 cases of the viral illness were confirmed.

The specific source of the outbreak is not now known, but the Oregonian reported that low immunization rates in the area meant that it was only a matter of time before a preventable outbreak like this one took hold in the Pacific Northwest.

Clark County Public Health has confirmed more than 30 measles cases since January 1.

In Oregon and Washington, people may have been exposed to the disease at about four dozen locations, including Portland International Airport and a Portland Trail Blazers game, officials said.

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Officials say it appears nearly all involve unvaccinated children under the age of 10. There has been one case so far this year, in an adult traveller returning from the Philippines. The first known patient sought medical care on December 31, but it is unknown if other people may have gotten sick before that and did not seek treatment.

Measles was eradicated in the USA after a safe and cheap vaccine was developed in 1963, but in recent years, outbreaks from NY to California have sickened hundreds. Inslee notes, "Almost everyone who is not immune will get measles if they are exposed".

Clark County has already spent more than $100,000 trying to contain the outbreak, and staff is being pulled from other duties, including restaurant inspections, he said.

"While we do want to have a heightened level of concern and be aware of measles, there are many more much more common viruses that are circulating", she said. "Clearly this is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it wouldn't surprise me if we were in the seven figures by the time we're done here", he said. It is highly contagious and spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

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Clark County's immunization rate for school-aged children is 78 percent, and a large majority of these cases were in children who were not vaccinated.

The full vaccine is 97 percent effective and provides immunity for life. The disease is contagious from approximately four days before the characteristic rash appears to four days after the rash appears.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have not been immunized but believe they have been exposed to the airborne virus, get the MMR vaccine. Symptoms such as high fever, rash all over the body, stuffy nose and red eyes typically disappear without treatment within two or three weeks. Serious complications such pneumonia and brain infections can arise from the disease in some cases.

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