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Measles Outbreak Confirmed In The U.S. Pacific Northwest

Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963, the disease was blamed for an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the CDC.

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A 1-year-old child is given the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine in Northridge, Calif., Jan. 29, 2015. VOA

Officials in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington have declared a measles outbreak after at least 22 people, including 20 children, have become infected with the disease since Jan. 1.

“It’s an outbreak because generally the way we define an outbreak is when you have more observed cases than expected cases. And generally with measles, the expected number is zero,” Dr. Alan Melnick with Clark County Public Health told KOIN6 TV in Portland, Oregon, last week. “You know, we have a very effective vaccine for measles. Two shots are 97 percent effective. We really shouldn’t be seeing measles.”

The outbreak comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releasing data for 2018 earlier this month. The CDC said the 349 reported cases in 26 states and the District of Columbia made 2018 the second worse year for measles since 2000, when the disease was eliminated in the U.S. It said 2014 was the worst year, with a reported 667 cases.

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A nurse holds a vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Feb. 26, 2015. VOA

The report said some of the cases were related to unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities, as well as travelers who became infected after visiting Israel, Italy, France and Britain, where major outbreaks are occurring. According to the CDC, an outbreak is defined as three or more linked cases.

The report also said 81 of the 349 cases were in people who traveled to the United States from other countries.

Clark County officials said a person infected with measles attended a Portland Trail Blazers National Basketball Association (NBA) game last week in Portland, Oregon, and contagious people visited other venues, such as the Portland airport, and local hospitals, stores and restaurants. Clark County is about a half-hour from Portland, causing officials to worry the disease may spread across the two-state region.

Global increases

Eighteen states, including Oregon and Washington, allow families to opt out of vaccines based on philosophical beliefs.

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A health worker vaccinates a toddler against measles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOA

While considered eliminated in the U.S., measles is common in other parts of the world, specifically Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, according to world health officials.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also reported significant increases in cases from various countries in 2018.

Also Read: Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that was thought to have been eradicated in the United States in 2000. Its symptoms, which include fever, runny nose and a skin rash, appear about 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The infection occurs in stages over a period of two to three weeks, the CDC reports.

Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963, the disease was blamed for an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the CDC. (VOA)

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Measles Could be Completely Wiped Off, Instead it’s Making a Comeback

In the first three months of this year, the World Health Organization reports that the number of measles cases has tripled over what it was last year

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Measles Could Be Eradicated. Instead, It's Making A Comeback. VOA

Measles is a disease that is only found in humans so it could be completely wiped off the face of the earth. But despite a highly effective and safe vaccine, it is making a comeback.

In the first three months of this year, the World Health Organization reports that the number of cases has tripled over what it was last year.

In Africa, the situation is worse. Africa saw a 700-percent increase compared to last year. Dr. Anthony Fauci heads the research on infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health. He says in Madagascar, the case is dire.

“Madagascar has almost 1,000 deaths and has tens of thousands of infections,” Fauci said. The National Institutes of Health warns that a decline in vaccination which is causing a preventable global resurgence of this often deadly disease, including in the U.S.

“One in ten children who get infected with measles will get an ear infection that could cause deafness. One-and-twenty would get pneumonia. One in a thousand would get brain swelling, what we call encephalitis, and one to three per thousand would die. To say that it is a trivial disease is completely incorrect,” Fauci said.

Dr. Walter Orenstein at the Emory University Vaccine Center has spent his life working to end measles. He says the complications are worse in poor countries.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

“You start off with children who are already at greater risk. They may be malnourished. They may have compromised immune systems. They may be underweight and may have no access to health care so measles is a big killer,” Orenstein said.

ALSO READ: New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

You have a 90 percent chance of getting measles if you haven’t been vaccinated and you come in contact with someone who has it. Dr. Rebecca Martin, heads the CDC’s center for global health. She is working to rid Africa of measles.  “It is very infectious. It will find everybody who is not protected against measles,” Martin said.

The solution is to get two doses of the vaccine. That may mean educating parents about both the disease and the vaccine. Equally important is making vaccination a priority of health systems worldwide. (VOA)