Measles reported in Georgia, Oregon and Hawaii amid outbreak across the US fueled by anti-vaxxers 

The measles outbreak that has sickened 38 people in Washington state has spread to Hawaii and Oregon by travelers with the highly-contagious disease. 

The revelation prompted public health officials in Oregon’s Deschutes County and in Hawaii to issue alerts, although no cases were confirmed in either location.

Meanwhile, three cases have been confirmed in Georgia among an unvaccinated family.   

The two-dose vaccine against measles was introduced in 1978 in the US, and by 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it ‘eliminated.’ 

But in recent years, there’s been a resurgence of the disease both in the US and abroad, and experts believe its return is fueled by anti-vaccination laws, groups and lobbies, experts say. 

Signss posted at The Vancouver Clinic in Vancouver, Washington warn patients and visitors of a measles outbreak that has sickened 40 people in the Pacific Northwest and has spread to Hawaii and Oregon. Cases have now been reported in Georgia, too 

The revelation of the outbreak’s spread ‘raises concerns that this can go on for a long time, become geographically larger than it is and more cases over weeks and months,’ said Dr Alan Melnick, public health director for Clark County, in southern Washington, which is at the epicenter of the outbreak and has a lower-than-normal vaccination rate.

There are 40 confirmed cases in the Northwest, including 38 clustered in southwest Washington, one in Portland and one in Seattle. Thirteen additional suspected cases were reported Wednesday, and some of those will likely be confirmed, Dr Melnick said.

Officials haven’t yet determined how the measles outbreak started. The first patient sought medical care on December 31, but other sick people may not have gone to a doctor or hospital, he said.

Clark County, where the first case was documented, has a 78 percent vaccination rate – far below the 95 percent required for ‘herd immunity’ for such a contagious virus.

Herd immunity, or community immunity, is when enough of the population is vaccinated to protect those who haven’t been vaccinated for medical reasons or because they are too young.

‘If you have a large unvaccinated population and you add measles to the mix, one measles case will infect 90 percent of contacts, and the early symptoms are not distinguishable from other respiratory illnesses – and you’re contagious at that point,’ Dr Melnick said.

‘So it’s like taking a lighted match and throwing it into a bucket of gasoline, basically,’ he said.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been consulting with local and state officials.

Two children who traveled to Hawaii were not contagious when they flew, Melnick said, and they were quarantined in the islands once they arrived. They have since returned home.

Of the confirmed cases, most patients were under 10 and at least 34 patients were not immunized. One dose of the measles vaccine gives 93 percent lifelong immunity; a second dose between ages 4 and 6 provides 97 percent immunity.

Three cases of measles have been confirmed among one Atlanta, Georgia family, health officials reported. 

None of the infected people were vaccinated and they are no longer contagious. 

Though being unvaccinated obviously left the sick individuals vulnerable to the disease, but those cases have not been connected to the Washington state outbreak and it is unclear how they contracted it. 

The vaccine has been part of routine childhood shots for decades. But it is still a big problem in other parts of the world, and travelers infected abroad can bring the virus back and spread it, causing periodic outbreaks.

Last year, there were 17 outbreaks and about 350 cases of measles in the US.

Before mass vaccination, 400 to 500 people in the US died of the measles every year, 50,000 people were hospitalized and 4,000 people developed brain swelling that can cause deafness, Melnick said. One to three cases out of every 1,000 are fatal, he said.

People who think they may have the measles should call their health care provider before showing up so the facility can take steps to limit other people’s exposure.

Early symptoms include a fever, runny nose and malaise, followed by a red rash that starts around the head and moves down the body.

Patients are contagious four days before and four days after getting the rash.