By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The recent outbreak of measles in Washington State shows no signs of letting up. Clark County Public Health officials on Monday confirmed 49 cases of the highly contagious disease. One case was also reported in King County, which includes Seattle, NBC News reported on Tuesday.
So far this year, Washington State is averaging more than one new case of measles a day, CNN reported.
Clark County Says Majority of Measles Cases Affecting People under 18
The majority of cases has affected children and young adults. Clark County officials broke down the confirmed cases by age groups:
- 1 to 10 years: 34 cases
- 11 to 18 years: 12 cases
- 19 to 29 years: one case
Patients also varied in their immunization status:
- Unimmunized: 41 cases
- Unverified: five cases
- 1 measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination: one case
Health officials declined to provide more details about the patient who received the common childhood MMR vaccination “to protect the patient’s privacy,” CNN added. Only one case has required hospitalization. That patient has since been released.
Some Patients Made Out-of-State Visits or Moved Out of Washington State
The Clark County Public Health office noted that two of the confirmed cases involved visitors to Hawaii and another who went to Bend, Oregon. The 47 confirmed cases also include two Clark County residents who moved to Georgia.
More than a half-dozen other cases are suspected, raising the possibility of more diagnoses among the unvaccinated.
“The measles vaccine isn’t perfect, but one dose is 93 percent effective at preventing illness,” Dr. Alan Melnick, public health director in Clark County, told the Associated Press. “The recommended two doses of the measles vaccine provide even greater protection — 97 percent,” he added.
Although measles was reported to have been eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, occasionally cases show up in overseas travelers.
First Case in Oregon Reported Last Month
On January 25, health officials in neighboring Oregon announced that a Multnomah County resident had been diagnosed with measles, according to The Oregonian newspaper. It was the first case of measles in the state that was linked to the outbreak in Washington.
On February 1, the Oregon Health Authority added four other locations — Gresham, Wood Village and two in Troutdale — where people may have been exposed to measles last week.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Sunday urged all parents to “please get your children vaccinated. We know that what we are doing is not working because we’re seeing the measles outbreak.” Brown acknowledged that “Oregon statutes around requiring immunizations are – from a national perspective – relatively weak.”
All States Require Immunization but Allow Exemptions
All 50 states have legislation requiring specified vaccines for students. Although exemptions vary from state to state, all school immunization laws grant exemptions to children for medical reasons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Washington and Oregon are among the 17 states that allow children to attend school with non-medical vaccine exemptions for personal, moral or religious beliefs. Both states are among the seven that “require education during the exemption process about the benefits of vaccination or the risks of opting out.” Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Utah and Vermont are the other five, the NCSL reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 79 cases of measles in 10 states in the month of January. Most of the outbreaks occurred in New York City, New York state and Washington State. “These outbreaks are associated with travelers who brought measles back from Israel and Ukraine, where large measles outbreaks are occurring,” the CDC said.
Last year, there were 17 outbreaks for a total of 372 cases in the U.S.