Measles at record level elsewhere in state — not on Peninsula

The Associated Press and Peninsula Daily News

Although no measles cases have surfaced in Clallam or Jefferson counties, other counties in the state, as well as in the nation, have not been so fortunate.

Washington state is one of a handful of places where a national measles outbreak has hit record levels this year.

Fifteen cases of the viral respiratory disease that is spread through the air have been reported in the state since January, The Seattle Times reported.

The last measles spike in Washington was in 2008, when Grant County had 19 cases.

So far this year, a Whatcom County resident attending school in British Columbia infected five friends and family members.

A man from San Juan County who traveled to Southeast Asia — an area prone to measles outbreaks — infected six others.

One child from Skagit County was infected after her first immunization dose. Her source of measles is unknown.

Measles was ruled out through the test of a child on the North Olympic Peninsula in late April, according to Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“It turned out it was not measles,” Locke said. “It was some other rash.”

“There are no measles cases suspected or confirmed in Clallam or Jefferson [counties] up to this time,” Locke said Friday.

The latest case of measles in the state was May 17 in Snohomish County, contracted by an unimmunized man who traveled to Indonesia.

There were no reports of anybody catching the disease from him.

“Our experience here in Washington is consistent to what’s being seen nationally,” said Chas DeBolt, senior epidemiologist for vaccine-preventable diseases for the state Department of Health.

Measles is an extremely contagious viral illness that can cause significant complications in some cases, including pneumonia and swelling of the brain.

It is associated with a cough, sore throat, conjunctivitis and fever, progressing to a generalized rash.

Measles is so contagious that transmission can occur two hours after an infected person leaves a room.

In 2000, the U.S. declared measles eliminated from the nation, meaning the disease was no longer native to the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

But this year, the number of confirmed cases has reached a 20-year high as people who get the disease abroad bring it back to the U.S.

It can spread to people who are not vaccinated. Much of this year’s outbreak was in unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio, according to The Associated Press.

In addition to Washington and Ohio, cases have been reported in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Most cases are related to unvaccinated Americans and foreign visitors who traveled from Europe, Africa and Asia, according to the CDC.

“I think we can attribute the fact that we didn’t see a larger state outbreak partially to the control efforts,” Locke told the Clallam County Board of Health in May.

Last modified: June 01. 2014 6:37PM
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