A public health emergency has been declared following a measles outbreak in Clark County, Wash., an area researchers say is a "hotspot" for higher rates of vaccination exemptions. "The existence of 26 confirmed cases in the state of Washington creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties". In 1998, Andrew Wakefield released a paper claiming to have linked the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to the onset of autism.
Measles is highly contagious and can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The World Health Organization in November warned that measles cases worldwide had jumped more than 30 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, in part because of children not being vaccinated.
Officials still are not sure where this Pacific Northwest outbreak began.
The Washington State Department of Health has instituted an infectious disease Incident Management Structure to manage the public health aspects of the incident to include investigations, laboratory testing and other efforts to protect communities. Authorities in neighboring OR and Idaho have issued warnings.
It could be weeks or even months before the "exquisitely contagious" virus runs its course in Washington, Dr. Alan Melnick, the Clark County health officer, said Friday. The first known patient sought medical care on December 31, but it is unknown if other people may have gotten sick before that and did not seek treatment. For now, public health officials are focused on preventing additional exposure.
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The best protection against measles is vaccination.
Another major reason, which has since been disproven, is the belief that vaccines are linked to autism, according to CBS News.
The full vaccine is 97 percent effective and provides immunity for life. For the most recent years of data available, 87.3 per cent of children turning two had received one dose of measles vaccine, and 88.4 per cent of children turning seven had received two doses, based on data in the provincial immunization registry reported by BC health authorities.
The virus, spread by coughing or sneezing, can remain in the air for up to two hours in an isolated space.
Although some people can not get vaccinations due to immune system issues or allergies, others do not get their children shots due to religious or philosophical beliefs. Complications from the disease, such as swelling of the brain, can be deadly. Those people stayed home and later got ill, Armstrong said.