The pool of unvaccinated children is fueling measles outbreak

A hospital security worker who declined to be identified stands at a door at Peace Health Southwest

A hospital security worker who declined to be identified stands at a door at Peace Health Southwest

Health officials in Washington have declared a state of emergency and are urging immunization as they scramble to contain a measles outbreak in two counties, while the number of cases of the potentially deadly virus continues to climb in a region with lower than normal vaccination rates. One person has been hospitalized in the outbreak.

And public health officials like Sammons have expressed concern over the small but growing number of unvaccinated children in the United States.

In the USA last year, there were 17 outbreaks and about 350 cases of measles. They anxious that it could take months to contain the highly contagious viral illness due to a lower-than-normal vaccination rate at the epicentre of the crisis.

The virus, spread by coughing or sneezing, can remain in the air for up to two hours in an isolated space.

Eighteen states including Washington allow parents to decide not to vaccinate their children due to moral, personal, or other beliefs. "Many state courts have weighed in and the right to practice a religion, the right to choose, does not include the liberty to expose a community or a child to a disease", Harris said.

He says some of his parents don't vaccinate for religious reasons, because they're anxious about side effects and because they're not convinced vaccinations are effective.

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A measles outbreak has prompted a state of emergency in the state of Washington, an area that is considered a hot spot for the anti-vaccination movement.

Dr. Paul Cieslak, a public health physician with the Oregon Health Authority, thinks the current outbreak could last two or three generations of cases. Because some people like to claim personal exemptions to getting the vaccine. The CDC says the measles vaccine is 97% effective if the first dose is given at one year old and the second at five years old.

Clark County, Washington, has a vaccination rate of 78 per cent, well below the level necessary to protect those with compromised immune systems or who can't get vaccinated because of medical issues or because they are too young. Ninety per cent of people exposed to measles who have not been vaccinated will get it, health officials said.

Every time an unvaccinated person who has been exposed to measles goes out in public, "it starts that clock over again", Armstrong said.

Washington state officials are now beginning the arduous and costly task of tracking down everyone who might have been exposed to the infection and cautioning them to be on the alert for symptoms, including runny nose, red eyes, fever and rash.

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