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

On January 25, Governor Jay Inslee declared a local public health emergency in all counties of Washington State, where many people (mostly unvaccinated children) have become infected with measles.

"Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be fatal in small children", Inslee said in a statement Friday.

In light of the outbreak in Washington, the BCDC is advising British Columbians to review and update their immunization status at any time, and especially prior to any travel. 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. In 2018, six cases of measles were reported among BC residents: two cases acquired infection during travel out of Canada (India and Philippines, respectively), and four acquired infection from imported cases. There has also been one confirmed case in King County, which includes Seattle.

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Those who are concerned about their potential measles exposure but have no symptoms can call 8-1-1 and speak to a nurse. But given the high rate of non-vaccination in "hotspot" areas, Peter J. Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, tells Stanley-Becker that he isn't surprised that outbreaks are happening.

Abigail Eckhart is one parent who is refusing to vaccinate her youngest son because she said her middle child suffered severe reactions.

Thirty-five of the confirmed measles patients and all of the suspected cases are located in Clark County. Those people stayed home and later got ill, Armstrong said. Only 21 percent of the children at the Slavic Christian Academy in southeast Portland, for example, have all their required vaccinations. "They're not going to be protected".

An outbreak like the one in Washington shows how easily the disease can spread among unvaccinated children and that once there is a pocket of the measles, it can easily spread.

Clark County officials have compiled a list of dozens of public places-among them stores, medical clinics, churches, schools and the Portland International Airport-where people may have been exposed to the infection.

"If your kids are immunized, you should feel really comfortable in the face of an outbreak", Swanson said. More than 90 percent of kids in this country are vaccinated, according to public health recommendations. It is paramount that no more people get infected and that the outbreak is contained. "Because the panic and frustration parents can feel is if their children are in a more vulnerable position because of decisions made by other people".

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