Washington state declares state of emergency following measles outbreak

Washington declares public health emergency after measles outbreak of mostly unvaccinated children

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is warning British Columbians to take precautions if they are travelling to Washington state or OR because of a measles outbreak.

The governor has declared a public health emergency after 34 cases of the viral illness were confirmed. Health officials are looking at a number of other suspected cases. Of those cases, 24 confirmed cases involved children 10 years or younger, and nine more involved children between the ages of 11 and 18, ABC News reported. And Seattle, Spokane and Portland are among 15 USA cities considered "hot spots" for their high rates of non-medical exemptions to vaccines that cover measles, mumps and rubella. Children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine.

The hospital has restricted visitation to labor and delivery, mother-baby and neonatal intensive care units, citing the rise in measles and influenza cases.

Clark County has already spent more than $100,000 trying to contain the outbreak, and staff is being pulled from other duties, including restaurant inspections, he said.

In B.C., all school-age children, university students and those traveling out of the country and anyone born after January 1, 1970 should have received two doses of measles vaccine, as should health-care workers born on or after January 1, 1957.

Washington state has one of the lowest vaccination rates when it comes to measles. A level of 95 per cent is recommended in order to prevent the disease from spreading, it said.

"The Washington State Department of Health reminds people to take precautions to help stop the spread of measles", the department said in an online statement, urging soon immunization of children. That's the second highest number of measles cases since it was eliminated in the United States in 2000.

Those who are unvaccinated, travel internationally to developing countries or have a vitamin A deficiency are more likely to catch the disease. 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. However, those symptoms are then followed by a rash that starts from the head and spreads to the rest of the body.

The final confirmed case involved a patient between 19 and 29 years old.

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.

"If you're fully immunized, it doesn't matter if you've been exposed to measles", Castrodale said.

It's one of the most contagious diseases known to medicine.

Officials still are not sure where the U.S. Northwest outbreak began. Certain groups need two doses of MMR, including: college students, health care workers, worldwide travelers, and persons at high risk for measles complications. People with measles may be contagious up to 4 days before the rash appears and for four days after the day the rash appears.

The incubation period for measles is seven to 21 days, which means that an unvaccinated person who has been exposed could be out in public for up to three weeks before getting sick. People who are not killed by the disease may still develop serious, lifelong complications.

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