Washington announces public health emergency following measles outbreak

Measles outbreaksCC: Gabby Orcutt at Unsplash

Last Friday, Governor Jay Inslee announced a state of emergency following multiple measles outbreaks in Washington. As a public health crisis, measles outbreaks are difficult to contain once they arrive. Preventing one is simple, though. Frustratingly, there’s simply no excuse for this to happen.

Why is a measles outbreak a reason to declare a public health emergency?

As one of the most contagious viruses you can catch, a measles outbreaks can deliver devastating consequences. According to the CDC, around 90-percent of those exposed to an infected person within four days of the rash appearing will catch the disease. This is far less likely to happen if they’re vaccinated.

It isn’t advisable to ignore the consequences of measles. Those who catch it are at risk of permanent deafness. If a child becomes deaf early on in life, they’re more likely to suffer from poor academic achievements.

While modern advances in medicine can accommodate for loss of hearing, measles outbreaks can have more permanent consequences. For example, long-lasting brain damage and death. Unfortunately, those who can’t vaccinate for medical reasons are at the highest risk through no fault of their own.

How rapidly are cases of measles rising in Washington?


On Friday 25th of January 2019, there were 36 confirmed measles cases. That has now risen to 36 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases. The measles outbreak poses a particularly significant risk to the very young and very old. Unfortunately, these are also the individuals who are likely to pass the condition on via the close living quarters in daycare and residential care facilities.

Are measles outbreaks happening elsewhere?

It’s believed that measles outbreaks are also affecting the Orthodox Jewish communities of New York and New Jersey. It should come as no surprise that there is resistance to the measles vaccine in these populations. As the condition spreads via air droplets, those who are affected could easily spread the virus elsewhere if they visit public places. The infectious period isn’t restricted to when the rash appears. Because of this, containing an epidemic can become incredibly challenging.

What are the best ways to protect against measles?

In a nutshell, immunisation gives you the best chance at protecting yourself and your children against measles. It’s 99% effective. While that lingering 2% acts as a concern for some, try to look at it in a different way. If you could find an approach to driving that acts as a 99% guarantee against crashing, you would soon take it.

At present, there is no evidence supporting the idea that splitting vaccines apart is as beneficial as using the MMR vaccine. If you fall into one of the categories of individuals who shouldn’t receive the vaccine, talk to your family doctor about the recent measles outbreaks.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.