Washington state has had more measles cases so far this year than in the past five years combined.
State health officials are sounding the alarm to remind people that vaccinations are the best protection against the spread of this serious and preventable disease.
So far in 2014 there have been 27 measles cases in Washington, up from the five reported in 2013. The most recent cases reported in the past month have been in King County (11 confirmed cases) and Pierce County (two confirmed cases).
This is the third measles outbreak in Washington state this year and the number of cases so far is the highest reported in any year since 1996.
Washington’s trend reflects the national trend. From Jan. 1 to July 3 of this year, the U.S. has experienced the highest number of cases since elimination of ongoing measles virus circulation in the U.S. was documented in 2000. Almost all of these cases are attributed to 17 outbreaks.
The resurgence is linked to several factors – people not being vaccinated and the fact that measles is still common in many parts of the world, including parts of Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Travelers with the measles continue to bring the disease to the U.S. and it spreads when it reaches communities where groups of people aren’t vaccinated.
Measles is highly contagious even before the rash starts. It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes – if you’re not vaccinated, you can get the measles just by walking into a room where someone with the disease has been in the past couple of hours.
About one in 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one in 20 gets pneumonia. Of every 1,000 people with measles, one is likely to get encephalitis, and one or two may die.
The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is recommended for kids 12 months and older, health care workers, college students, adults born after 1956 and people who travel internationally. Pregnant women should not get the vaccine until after giving birth.