On January 25, Governor Jay Inslee declared a local public health emergency in all counties of Washington State, where many people (mostly unvaccinated children) have become infected with measles. The outbreak is being closely monitored and one person has been taken to the hospital.
“Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease that can be fatal in small children,” Gov. Inslee stated in his proclamation. “The existence of 26 confirmed cases in the state of Washington creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties.”
Since the declaration was made, the number of infected individuals has risen to 35, one in King County and 34 in Clark County. Among the people in Clark County, 30 of them are unvaccinated, 24 are children under the age of 10, nine are between 11 and 18 years old, and one person is between 19 and 29 years of age.
Measles is perfectly preventable thanks to vaccines, but due to people who stand to gain from vaccine skepticism, some parents are choosing to put their children and many other people at risk. Measles can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and even simply by breathing. Measles symptoms tend to manifest seven to 21 days after exposure. The disease is contagious from approximately four days before the characteristic rash appears to four days after the rash appears. This means it is possible that if a person has not been immunized, they could still be spreading the infection without knowing they are.
The counties’ public health officials urge those who believe they or their child have contracted the disease to contact their medical office and plan a visit. It is paramount that no more people get infected and that the outbreak is contained. Both counties have released a list of the locations where there has been an increased risk of exposure from December 31st to today.
Vaccine hesitancy has been included by the World Health Organization in the top 10 threats humanity faces. The situation is worrying: 41,000 cases of measles happened in Europe during the first half of 2018, up from over 5,000 in 2016. It is estimated that roughly 1.5 million deaths every year could be avoided if global vaccination coverage was improved.