A measles outbreak has sparked a public health emergency in an anti-vaccination movement hotspot.
The highly infectious virus is sweeping through Portland and Clark Country in the state of Washington.
At least 25 confirmed cases of measles and 12 suspected cases have been reported in the area since the new year, and Clark County Public Health has declared a public health emergency.
In a statement, the health department listed a long list of places where those infected visited which includes churches, schools, hospitals, Portland International Airport, IKEA, a Costco, and two Dollar Tree stores.
Clark County Public Health also confirmed 19 of the cases are children aged under 10, five are kids aged between 11 and 18, while one is aged between and 19 and 29 years.
It is not know whether four of the cases are vaccinated, but the health department stated the other 24 are unimmunised.
Updating their website daily with new information, the health department urged those who believe they have symptoms to not go straight to their doctor.
Clark County Public Health is urging anyone who has been exposed and believes they have symptoms of measles to call their health care provider prior to visiting the medical office to make a plan that avoids exposing others in the waiting room.
People who believe they have symptoms of measles should not go directly to medical offices, urgent care centers or emergency departments (unless experiencing a medical emergency) without calling in advance.
Anyone with questions about measles immunity or the measles vaccine should contact their primary care provider. Clark County Public Health does not provide immunisations or testing for immunity.
The viral illness causes fevers, coughs and a characteristic red rash, which typically starts on the face before spreading to the rest of the body.
It is preventable through a highly effective vaccination which was developed in 1963.
According to state records seen by The Washington Post, in Clark County almost eight per cent of children in the 2017-18 school year did not receive the standard immunisation.
Vaccine-preventable diseases include:
Here are 5 facts on vaccines you need to know pic.twitter.com/T5uZFZeLzT
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 18, 2019
Of those eight per cent, only one per cent was deemed exempt for medical reasons while the other seven per cent objected due to ‘personal or religious reasons’.
Peter J Hotez, professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, spoke to The Washington Post about the public health emergency putting the blame on the anti-vaccination movement.
It’s really awful and really tragic and totally preventable. Portland is a total train wreck when it comes to vaccine rates. This is a self-inflicted wound.
2018 saw the 2nd-greatest annual number of US #measles cases since 1996. 1 reason: 81 unvaccinated travelers (mostly US residents) got measles abroad & brought it to the US where it spread. Ensure you’re protected against measles before traveling. https://t.co/czlSryEK9e pic.twitter.com/OLuXPBQ3JI
— CDC (@CDCgov) January 18, 2019
Douglas J. Opel, a paediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, added:
It’s alarming. Any time we have an outbreak of a disease that we have a safe and effective vaccine against, it should raise a red flag.
Experts have advised the outbreak may have only just started as the incubation period for the virus averages two weeks.
It can also start to spread four days before a rash begins to show.
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Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.