Kids traveling from Washington develop measles in Hawaii

Kenny Tucker
January 30, 2019

The number of confirmed measles cases in southwest Washington state has grown to 34, with at least 30 of the patients not having been vaccinated against the virus, the Associated Press reports today (January 28).

The BCCDC issued the warning over the weekend, saying that people who travel to Clark County, in Washington state just outside Portland, Oregon, 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. Luckily, there has only been one hospitalization thus far.

In declaring the emergency, Gov. Jay Inslee said the number of cases of the infectious disease "creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties".

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.

These rates of non-vaccination are particularly high in the state of OR, which is worrisome considering its close proximity to the outbreak in nearby Clark County, Washington. "These costs could have been prevented if we had everybody vaccinated".

Washington and OR are among the country's many states that allow parents with a personal OR philosophical objection to decline the measles vaccination, among some others.

It could be weeks or even months before the "exquisitely contagious" virus runs its course in Washington, according to Dr. Alan Melnick, the Clark County health officer.

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Before the vaccine, 400 to 500 people died from the measles each year, 50,000 people were hospitalized and 4,000 people developed brain swelling that can cause deafness, he said.

"We should all be anxious when a vaccine-preventable illness is coming back into our country", Sammons said.

The full vaccine is 97 percent effective and provides immunity for life.

Over the last few years, flu vaccination effectiveness rate has hovered around 40 percent, which may lead to confusion about other vaccines. The vaccine-exemption rate in Clark County for non-medical reasons was high, at 7.5 percent, Armstrong said. One or two of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from complications, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus is spread through the air and lingers. Patients remain contagious for four days after they develop the rash. Once a person has measles, about 90% of close contacts who are susceptible to it will develop the disease, she added.

People who have had measles are also considered to be immune from getting the illness a second time, similar to chicken pox.

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