Thousands of people have been infected in a measles outbreak that is currently spreading across the Pacific Northwest, causing Washington Governor Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency in all counties on Friday.
"Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be fatal in young children," inslee said in a statement Friday. "Almost everyone who is not immune gets measles if exposed to the virus." The statement will draw state resources to tackle the problem upside down and "do everything reasonably possible to help affected political subdivisions", according to Inslee's proclamation.
The latest figures from the Washington State Department of Health from Saturday indicate the number of cases confirmed since rising to 32 across two counties since January 1, most cases being in children 10 years and younger. According to Clark County Public Health figures, 27 of the infected had not received a measles vaccine. A person has been admitted to the outbreak.
At least one case was reported in connection with the Washington outbreak in Oregon's Multnomah County on Friday.
The disease control and prevention centers report that symptoms typically exceed one week to two weeks after a person is infected with measles, so people will hardly know that they are infected immediately and can spread themselves. Initial symptoms include fever, cough, aqueous eyes and a runny nose; a soft red rash will typically spread to the entire infected person's body about three to five days later. Before a rash breaks out, the infected will probably experience Koplik spots or white spots on the inside of their mouth.
The specific source of the outbreak is not currently known, but the eastern region reported that low rates of immunization in the area meant that it was only a matter of time before a preventable outbreak as it caught the Pacific Northwest. Clark County Public Health Officer Alan Melnick told the paper that if vaccination does not go up in the area, the state could see more incidents like this ahead.
"The bottom line is, it's no surprise, we're seeing this right now," said Melnick.