"The existence of 26 confirmed cases in the state of Washington creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties". All but two confirmed cases are in children and teenagers under the age of 18, and in 32 cases, the patient was not vaccinated against the virus.
"Anti-vaxxer" parents and activists in Washington and nearby OR have been calling on the states to not require the measles vaccines. In recent years, however, the viral illness has popped up again from NY to California and sickened hundreds.
Clark County, which includes the Portland bedroom community of Vancouver, Washington, has a measles vaccination rate of 78 percent, well below the 92 to 94 percent rate required for so-called "herd immunity", said Marissa Armstrong, the department's spokeswoman.
"What keeps me up at night is eventually having a child die from this completely preventable situation", he said. Measles can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and even simply by breathing.
He says some of his parents don't vaccinate for religious reasons, because they're anxious about side effects and because they're not convinced vaccinations are effective.
According to DPH, three cases were confirmed in 2018.
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. At least 31 of those sick were not vaccinated. Only 76.5 percent of Clark County's kindergartners had complete vaccinations in the last school year, and as one of the most highly contagious diseases, measles is a prime candidate for causing outbreaks in vulnerable areas.
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You should immunize your children. But measles is still a big problem in other parts of the world, and travelers infected overseas can bring the virus back and spread it, causing periodic outbreaks.
Measles was eradicated in the US after a safe and cheap vaccine was developed in 1963, but in recent years, outbreaks from NY to California have sickened hundreds.
Officials still are not sure where the Northwest outbreak began. 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.
The MMR vaccine and MMRV vaccine are usually given in two doses to young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Together, the two doses are about 97 percent effective at preventing the disease, the CDC says. Inslee notes, "Almost everyone who is not immune will get measles if they are exposed".
"The media tends to distort this", she said.
Washington state officials are now beginning the arduous and costly task of tracking down everyone who might have been exposed to the infection and cautioning them to be on the alert for symptoms, including runny nose, red eyes, fever and rash.