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Gov. Inslee declares measles emergency. The outbreak hasn’t hit Tri-Cities — yet

Getting vaccinated can help stop measles from spreading

Since measles is still common in many countries, unvaccinated travelers bring measles to the U.S. and it can spread. But you can protect yourself, your family, and your community with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
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Since measles is still common in many countries, unvaccinated travelers bring measles to the U.S. and it can spread. But you can protect yourself, your family, and your community with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday declared a state of emergency over a growing measles outbreak.

Already, there are 30 confirmed cases in the Vancouver area, near Portland, and one in the Seattle area.

But, so far, the state’s outbreak hasn’t spread to the Tri-Cities.

This area doesn’t have any reported cases, Rick Dawson of the Benton-Franklin Health District confirmed on Friday.

But “that doesn’t mean there’s no risk that might happen,” he said.

The illness is highly contagious, and infected people have visited some busy places in regional hubs in recent weeks, including Portland International Airport, the Portland IKEA store and a Portland Trail Blazers game, he noted.

‘Extreme public health risk’

Inslee’s proclamation directs state agencies and departments to use “state resources and do everything reasonably possible to assist affected areas” and opens the door to requesting medical resources from other states.

“Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease that can be fatal in small children,” he said in his proclamation, adding that the outbreak “creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties.”

“The Washington State Department of Health has instituted an infectious disease Incident Management Structure to manage the public health aspects of the incident to include investigations, laboratory testing and other efforts to protect communities,” according to information from Inslee’s office.

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M-M-R vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Andrew Jansen Herald file

“Meanwhile, the Washington Military Department is coordinating resources to support (the state health department) and local officials in alleviating the impacts to people, property and infrastructure,” said the information.

Of the 30 confirmed measles cases in Clark County, 21 are children ages 1 to 10, another eight are kids ages 11 to 18, and one is an adult, according to the Clark County Public Health. Twenty-six weren’t immunized, and the status of the other four isn’t verified.

The Benton-Franklin Health District is closely monitoring the outbreak and has sent information to area health providers, Dawson said.

According to Herald archives, the Tri-Cities had an outbreak in 1991 when there were more than 110 diagnosed cases and three deaths. Grant County also had an outbreak in 2008.

Measles spreads through the air

Measles typically starts with symptoms such as a fever, cough, diarrhea and fatigue, and then progresses to a rash that usually starts on the face and travels down the body, according to the state health department.

The illness spreads through the air, and it’s “so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” said the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.

It’s contagious from four days before through four days after the rash appears, the CDC said.

While a vaccine is widely used and available, Clark County has a high rate of nonmedical exemptions, The Washington Post reported.

“The message that we give to people is, please immunize your children. Please take those steps. It’s important,” Dawson said.

“If you were in Clark County or Portland and are concerned or feel ill, call your physician so they can be prepared (for your visit) to prevent other patients and staff from exposure,” Dawson said.

More information on measles: doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Measles.

Sara Schilling writes about what makes the Tri-Cities home, including cool people doing cool things. She also pays special attention to children’s education, schools, health care and the arts. She grew up in Kennewick and attended Seattle Pacific University.
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