Public Health Emergency Declared in Washington Due to Measles Outbreak. Are You Vaccinated?

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source: Flickr

The state of Washington has declared a public health emergency after 31 cases of measles have been confirmed in Washington Clark County, bordering Portland, Oregon. 

The outbreak was first identified on January 18. Most of the infected patients were unvaccinated children between one and ten years old. In the Kink County, a man in his 50s has also been diagnosed with measles.

As the measles is one of the most contagious, infectious diseases and it is spreading quickly, the risk of the public health is high, commented Washington's governor Jay Inslee. The governor's proclamation gives the green light to all the state agencies and departments to use their resource to the fullest to assist the affected areas.

It has been identified that in the Clark County outbreak, people with the virus had visited numerous public spaces, including medical centers, schools, and churches - possibly spreading the virus to the others.

The measles outbreak would be troubling anywhere in the country, but the situation in Washington is more worrisome as the states of Oregon and Washington are more flexible when it comes to allowing parents not to vaccinate their children for personal, and non-health-related issues. The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine which in general children in the US are supposed to get before going to the kindergarten prevents measles. According to the healthcare professionals, almost everyone who gets the two doses of the vaccine will never get the disease even if they are exposed.

Statistics have shown that in the area around the river in Oregon, the rate of vaccine exemptions has dramatically increased in recent times, from 5.8 percent in 2015 to 7.5 percent in 2018. Moreover, 7.9 percent of the children from Washington's Clark County has been exempted from vaccines during the 2017-2018 school year. That is in sharp contrast with the national average which suggests 2 percent of children remain unvaccinated for personal, religious, and non-medical reasons.

In the United States, vaccines are under the public health jurisdiction of each state. Therefore, there are immunization requirements defer from state to state. Almost every one of them shows some understanding for people with religious, moral or other personal beliefs against immunizations. Only West Virginia, California, and Mississippi do not allow any vaccination exemptions based on philosophical or religious reasons.

In 1978, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention aimed to eliminate measles from the country by 1982. It was declared eradicated in 2000. Now, the flexible state vaccine legislation allows it to come back. 

Do you agree that the government should impose stricter regulations for vaccinating children before entering the kindergarten?