Health Care

Officials urge vaccinations amid Northwest measles outbreak

Officials urge vaccinations amid Northwest measles outbreak”

States like Virginia had a 97.6 percent rate for measles while Washington state is at 88.5 percent.

In Clark County, however, vaccination rates have been dropping.

A news release on the governor's website says the Washington State Department of Health, or DOH, has implemented an infectious disease incident management structure so it can manage the public health aspects of the outbreak through investigations and lab testing. That is a significant increase from Friday's reported numbers when Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency.

According to DPH, three cases were confirmed in 2018. "Measles is a highly contagious disease that can spread quickly among unvaccinated people". Among the people in Clark County, 30 of them are unvaccinated, 24 are children under the age of 10, nine are between 11 and 18 years old, and one person is between 19 and 29 years of age.

Washington state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist told NPR's Patti Neighmond this is likely only the beginning of the epidemic since numerous families with infected children traveled to very public places, including Costco, Ikea, the Portland International Airport and the arena where the Trail Blazers play.

Thus far in Washington, no cases have been in children under the age of 1, which Swanson believes is at least partly because local officials have been dogged in their efforts to track exactly where infected individuals have been (schools, daycares, health centers, grocery stores, etc.) so parents with babies can stay away. As a result, people may not know they are carrying the disease and could easily unwittingly expose others to the extremely contagious virus.

Measles virus travels through the air.

There were 34 cases of the measles in Clark County, which sits on the state's southern border, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Serious complications such pneumonia and brain infections can arise from the disease in some cases. The vaccination status for the remaining four is, for now, unclear.

"As a pediatrician and parent, I find it frustrating because this is happening among children who are dependent on their parents' decision-making", said Wendy Swanson, a pediatrician and chief of digital innovation at Seattle Children's Hospital. Rep. Paul Harris, who represents Clark County, says his bill in the House is aiming to get personal exemptions off the table only when it comes to the measles.

People may have been exposed to the disease at about four dozen locations, including Portland International Airport and a Portland Trail Blazers game, county health officials said.

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