Measles cases in Europe tripled previous year, World Health Organization says

Adjust Comment Print

If you think you might be infected, the safest thing to do is stay in your room because of the highly contagious nature of the disease.

Experts can't say for sure where the next outbreak might be. The comparatively high percentage of unvaccinated children in parts of northern OR and Washington, combined with the current outbreak, has led local officials to take drastic measures to prevent further outbreaks.

Canada could experience the same type of measles outbreaks that Washington and NY states are now facing because of low vaccination rates and the highly contagious nature of the virus, public health experts warn.

It comes as the city of Washington in the United States declared a measles state of emergency, and the measles death toll in south-east Asia continues to rise.

Similar outbreaks have been occurring in Europe: In 2017, there were 25,863 cases of measles; a year ago, that surged to more than 82,000.

"Progress has been uneven between and within countries, leaving increasing clusters of susceptible individuals unprotected, and resulting in a record number of people affected by the virus in 2018", it said.

Adult vaccination numbers in the county also rose. Yet one or two out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from complications, according to the CDC.

Immunization and vitamin A supplementation of 9-month-old children are the best defenses against measles, the DOH said. The second dose provides 97 percent protection.

Europe is not the only country impacted by a spike in measles cases.

Part of the challenge facing public health officials is that Canada doesn't have a national vaccination registry and provinces track vaccine rates differently, meaning it can be hard to get an accurate, real-time sense of how many people are up-to-date on their shots - and where pockets of low immunization are. "There are some more isolated, unvaccinated communities, for example the Amish, where we haven't seen a major outbreak".

Fifty-one of the confirmed measles cases are in southwest Washington, one is in the Seattle area and four are in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. Julie Graham, a public information officer with the Health Department, said those reports are inaccurate. More than 1,700 hundred adults have been vaccinated since the third week of January.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in order to reach the measles herd immunity threshold and stop the spread, at least 93-95% of the population must be up-to-date on vaccinations.

"(But) that's not to say we will never get it again it means that we don't have it continuously spreading around the country", Macartney said.