Northwest measles outbreak revives debate over vaccine laws


5:21pm Updated

In stark contrast to some social media rumors, the measles outbreak in Clark County, Washington which has spawned at least one case in Oregon has not spread to Southern Oregon, Jackson County Public Health said in a statement on Friday.

No cases of measles have been reported in Chelan or Douglas County.

Advocates of the anti-vaccine movement, which is strong in the western United States, continue to spread misinformation on social media, Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County public health director, told the AP. When a person has been vaccinated as recommended, the vaccine is up to 97 percent effective in preventing measles.

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ABC Action News has obtained public health records detailing how many unvaccinated children attend Tampa Bay area schools. There hasn't been a case of measles in North Dakota since 2011, according to the Department of Health.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been consulting with local and state officials.

The majority of measles cases are children, with 25 of the 35 confirmed cases impacting children under 10 years old.

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Since then, widespread use of measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99 percent reduction in measles cases compared with the pre-vaccine era. Washington also has a higher-than-average percentage of vaccine exemptions. Liberal-leaning OR and Washington have some of the nation's highest statewide vaccine exemption rates, driven in part by low vaccination levels in scattered communities and at some private and alternative schools. Anyone who is not vaccinated against rubella is at risk of getting the disease. There has been no connection made between the outbreak in Washington and the three cases in Georgia.

Nearly everyone who is not immune will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.

Symptoms of measles can often be similar to cold or flu symptoms, including: fever, diarrhea, coughing, runny nose, red and watery eyes, and fatigue.

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As long as people in the community aren't vaccinated, doctors say there is potential for an outbreak. Before mass vaccination, 400 to 500 people in the US died of the measles every year.

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