Measles, the highly contagious and previously eliminated viral illness, has been spreading in communities across the United States in recent weeks, with Washington declaring a state of emergency last week and NY reporting in 2018 its second largest outbreak over the past two decades. According to an October report by the CDC, 2018 was the third consecutive year in which numbers of children entering school with vaccine exemptions rose.
Public health officials in southwest Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, said people may have been exposed to the unsafe disease at more than three dozen locations, including Portland International Airport, a Portland Trail Blazers game, an Amazon Locker location and stores such as Costco and Ikea.
In Oregon and Washington, people may have been exposed to the disease at about four dozen locations, including Portland International Airport and a Portland Trail Blazers game, officials said.
Twenty-six of the confirmed patients had not been vaccinated against measles, and the vaccination status of four others who were infected is unknown.
As the cases increase in these communities, we sit down with Dr. Julia S. Sammons, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of the Department of Infection Prevention and Control at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, to talk about some of the most common questions about the illness.
The outbreak near Portland has sickened 35 people in OR and Washington since January 1, with 11 more cases suspected. The first known patient sought medical care on December 31, but it isn't known if other people may have gotten sick before that and did not seek treatment. The current law in place allows parents to decline immunization for children based on "philosophical or personal objections", health risks as confirmed by a licensed physician, or religious beliefs.
Last year, there were 17 outbreaks and about 350 cases of measles in the U.S.
"We already send the letters to the parents", said principal Andrey Dolbinin. "The best protection against measles is vaccination".
A recently-introduced bill in the Washington State Legislature would put a stop to personal exemptions for the measles vaccine in children.
The groups often spread misinformation claiming a link between vaccines and autism. Neurological disorders and swelling, deafness and compromised immune systems are some of the problems people could face even years after recovering from the measles. The measles vaccine consists of two shots, one given by age 2 and the second usually between ages 4 and 6. Once a person has measles, about 90% of close contacts who are susceptible to it will develop the disease, she added. Initial symptoms include fever, cough, watery eyes, and a runny nose; a blotchy red rash will typically spread to all over the infected individual's body roughly three to five days later.