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Measles outbreak revives debate over vaccine laws

02 February 2019

The majority of measles cases are children, with 25 of the 35 confirmed cases impacting children under 10 years old. But a drop in vaccination rates has brought a resurgence.

"Americans who travel overseas might be surprised to find out that a number of the countries where measles is being transmitted are countries that would be surprising to them", Dr. Nancy Messonnier the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said.

Health officials in Washington have declared a state of emergency over the measles outbreak. Washington also has a higher-than-average percentage of vaccine exemptions.

A measles outbreak near Portland, Ore., has revived a bitter debate over so-called personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccinations.

Measles is still a big problem in other parts of the world, and travelers infected overseas can bring back the virus, causing periodic outbreaks.

Herd immunity is a level of vaccination at which people who can't safely get vaccines (because they have HIV, cancer, or other conditions which make their immune systems more fragile) are protected.

If you suspect you have the measles or have been exposed to the virus, the CDC advises people to call their doctor immediately. DOH urges everyone to check their immunization records to verify that they are fully immunized and get vaccinated if they are not already.

The symptoms include a rash, a fever and flu-like symptoms. The virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person, and can survive for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. Effective treatments for people with measles are largely limited to drinking lots of fluids, rest, Vitamin A and over the counter pain relievers.

Dr. John Bouldin, a pediatrician at LewisGale Medical Center, said about measles, "It was serious enough that [we thought], okay, we need a way to stop this, so that's why the vaccines came about. There is no magic bullet cure to fight it". The more people start opting out, the broader the risk becomes.

Measles virus travels through the air. Patients are contagious four days before and four days after getting the rash. The factually incorrect report was debunked many times over in the years that followed, but that hasn't stopped some parents from choosing to not vaccinate their children against diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella.

Foreign travel or exposure to foreign travelers increases the risk for measles.

If you are unsure of your family's immunization status, you can view, download and print your family's immunization information online at or request a copy of your immunization record from the Washington State Department of Health.

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Measles outbreak revives debate over vaccine laws