Published: Thu, January 31, 2019
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Measles Outbreak 2019: What Are the Symptoms, How Does It Spread?

Measles Outbreak 2019: What Are the Symptoms, How Does It Spread?

By Monday, the Washington's department of health confirmed 35 cases of measles in Clark County - which includes the city of Vancouver, Washington, near Portland, Oregon - and one in King County, the county in which Sea-Tac airport is located.

So why the emergency declaration?

Who cares if measles are the most contagious of any disease known to man.

According to the Mayo Clinic, measles spreads when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or talks near other people. 90% of people who are not immune to measles will become infected if exposed to it. In 2000, officials declared that measles had been officially eliminated from the U.S.

A measles outbreak has prompted a state of emergency in the state of Washington, an area that is considered a hot spot for the anti-vaccination movement. There are 11 more potential cases pending confirmation. To this day, it still kills 100,000 children a year worldwide, most under the age of five. The CDC attributed the jump to primarily unvaccinated people in the Orthodox Jewish communities in New York state, New York City and New Jersey. It's spread through those common winter companions, sneezing and coughing.

State records show that 77.4 percent of all public students in Clark County received all their vaccines, making it among the worst in Washington state, according to The Oregonian.

For more information on measles, visit the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) measles webpage at www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Pages/measles.aspx, or call North Central Public Health District (Wasco, Sherman & Gilliam Counties) at 541-506-2600; or the Hood River County Health Department at 541-386-1115. By 2017-2018, only 84 percent of kindergartners had.

Over the last few years, flu vaccination effectiveness rate has hovered around 40 percent, which may lead to confusion about other vaccines.

Children under the age of one can not be immunized. According to KATU News in Portland, 31 of the 35 infected people were unvaccinated and the other four are not verified to have received the vaccine. However, vaccination again measles is very effective at preventing illness. Those people stayed home and later got ill, Armstrong said.

Canadians travelling to affected communities are at risk of exposure to measles, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said.

You'll get the latest updates on this topic in your browser notifications. The majority of the cases involve children younger than 10. Health officials say they suspect another case linked to the outbreak in Deschutes County.

But children who are immunocompromised - like those who are on steroids or who are undergoing chemotherapy, for example - are also unable to be vaccinated.

And with increasing numbers, vaccinated people may be starting to wonder just how protected they are. But measles is still a big problem in other parts of the world, and travellers infected overseas can bring the virus back and spread it, causing periodic outbreaks. 2019 has seen one report so far of a traveller who contracted the infection after returning from the Philippines.

"If your kids are immunized, you should feel really comfortable in the face of an outbreak", Swanson said.

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