Published: Wed, January 30, 2019
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Washington governor declares state of emergency over measles outbreak

Washington governor declares state of emergency over measles outbreak

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

Twenty-six of the confirmed patients had not been vaccinated against measles, and the vaccination status of four others who were infected is unknown.

"The measles virus is a highly contagious infectious disease that can be fatal in small children, and the existence of 26 confirmed cases in the state of Washington creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties", he said last week.

In the US last year, there were 17 outbreaks and about 350 cases of measles.

As the number of confirmed measles cases in Southwest Washington and OR grew to 36 cases, health authorities said Monday that their biggest concern is low vaccination rates in schools and the possibility that the crisis could stretch out for months. All school-age children, university students and those traveling out of the country and born on or after January 1, 1970 should have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, as should health-care workers born on or after January 1, 1957.

While nearly all states allow exemptions from their vaccination legislation on religious grounds, Washington state is one of 18 states that also allow exemptions on the grounds of personal or moral beliefs.

Those infected are primarily isolated to Clark County, in southwest Washington, which directly borders Oregan's capital of Portland. "It's all hands on deck", Alan Melnick, the county health officer, tells the AP "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".

HB-1638 would only apply to measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines in the "philosophical or personal objections" category.

Doctors say the full vaccine is 97 per cent effective and protects you for life. The vaccine-exemption rate in Clark County for non-medical reasons was high, at 7.5 percent, Armstrong said.

"Two weeks after the exposure you might see some cases, and those people who got sick are exposing other people". The disease is contagious from approximately four days before the characteristic rash appears to four days after the rash appears. It is highly contagious and spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

"While it is expected that most travellers will be immune to measles, some individuals will be susceptible, including infants less than one-year-old or people who have never been immunized against measles", wrote the BCCDC. Those people stayed home and later got ill, Armstrong said.

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