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Washington State measles outbreak results in state of emergency proclamation

Skin of a person after 3 days of measles infection. Photo: CDC-Dr Heinz F Eichenwald

Washington State Department of Health officials are monitoring a measles outbreak in Clark County and express concern over the potential for the contagious virus to quickly spread.

There have been 36 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County and 1 in King County reported this month. As a result, Governor Jay Inslee issued a State of Emergency proclamation for all counties enabling utilization of state resources to monitor and control the spread of the illness.

Clark County is a small region (approximately 30 miles by 25 miles) on the southern border of Washington State and is home to the city of Vancouver. Interstate 5 connects it to Whatcom County and Ferndale, about 200 miles to the north.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne virus according to Health officials. People can be exposed to the measles virus by simply going near or even being in the same room within 2 hours of a person with measles. Measles, also called rubeola, is the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses. It is a leading cause of death among children worldwide. The MMR vaccine is the best protection against measles according to health officials.

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Measles symptoms include

  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • coughing
  • runny nose
  • red and watery eyes
  • tiredness  

After a few days, a rash begins, which usually starts on the face and can spread over the entire body.

An infected person can be contagious as early as 4 days before they have a rash and for up to 4 days after the rash appears according to state Health officials. Almost everyone who is not immune, such as someone who has not been vaccinated, will get measles if they are exposed to the virus.

*Cases as of December 30, 2017. Case count is preliminary and subject to change.
**Cases as of December 29, 2018. Case count is preliminary and subject to change.
Confirmed measles cases in the US. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 349 individual cases of measles were confirmed during 2018 in 26 states, including Washington State, and the District of Columbia. This is the second-largest number reported since 2000. The greatest was 667 cases reported in 2014.

Officials request that anyone exposed to measles and feeling ill contact their healthcare provider from home to help prevent the spread of the disease. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call your local health department or the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

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