Washington Witnesses Measles Outbreak, Hits 18-Year High

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By Sarah Thomas | July 14, 2014 11:47 AM EST

On Thursday, July 10, Washington State witnessed the highest number of measles cases in 18 years. Since 1996, such an outbreak was not reported. The residents were urged to immediately seek vaccinations against the disease.

Reuters
A girl wearing a mask looks out a car window as rain drops are seen in Taif June 7, 2014. When Saudi Arabia announced last week that it had found 113 more cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it didn't just force a rethink of the threat the virus poses, it exposed dangerous institutional failings. Picture taken June 7, 2014. To match SAUDI-MERS/FAILINGS REUTERS/Mohamed Alhwaity (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY)

There were reportedly 27 cases of measles so far in 2014 which was more than the cases reported in the past five years combined, Kelly Stowe, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Health, confirmed. The outbreaks, she added, coincided with the slight decline in the vaccinations taken by the residents. The vaccinations also protect against mumps and rubella.

According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles also has surged nationally, the 17 outbreaks in 20 states has accounted for 554 cases.

There have been 11 cases in King Country and two in Pierce Country. "It is concerning," Stowe said. Countries like Europe, Asia and Africa still encounter several cases of measles. The disease is a communicable one that spreads through air, with every infected persons cough or sneeze the virus is spreading.

There are several symptoms of measles like dry cough, runny nose, sore throat etc. In 2000, the United States declared that home-grown measles whose symptoms were rash and fever was eliminated. But health officials confirm that the disease was acquired from overseas by travelers and is spreading amongst unvaccinated U.S. residents, increasing the rates of infection.

According to the CDC, the cases are linked to people travelling to the Philippines which is in the midst of a large and ongoing outbreak. Dr. Greg Stern, Whatcom County health officer, advised travellers to make sure they have taken the vaccination. "If you're going to be travelling overseas, especially to places that are known to have large numbers of measles cases and you're not vaccinated, there's a real high risk of, if you get sick, of bringing it back," he said.

Throwing more light on the vaccination he said that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine can and must be taken for children who are 12 months and older. Health care workers, college students and adults born after 1956 must be vaccinated. Pregnant women, however, are advised not to get vaccinated until they give birth.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
A girl wearing a mask looks out a car window as rain drops are seen in Taif June 7, 2014. When Saudi Arabia announced last week that it had found 113 more cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it didn't just force a rethink of the threat the virus poses, it exposed dangerous institutional failings. Picture taken June 7, 2014. To match SAUDI-MERS/FAILINGS REUTERS/Mohamed Alhwaity (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY)
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