Measles outbreak in Pacific Northwest about half of US cases


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The focus on measles in the Pacific Northwest intensified Friday as public health officials in Oregon announced a new case of the highly contagious disease unrelated to an ongoing outbreak in Washington state that’s sickened 68 people so far.

An unvaccinated Illinois resident who spent time overseas visited Portland International Airport and various locations in Salem, Oregon last week while contagious with measles, the Oregon Health Authority said. Potential exposure locations include a Red Robin restaurant and a trampoline fun park in Salem, officials said.

The case is unrelated to an ongoing measles outbreak in southwest Washington state that’s sickened dozens. Public health officials in Clark County, Washington, said three new cases were identified Friday and two more are suspected.

That brings the number of cases in the Portland, Oregon bedroom community of Vancouver, Washington, to 68 — more than 40 percent of the number reported nationwide since Jan. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated statistics released Friday.

There have been 159 measles cases identified nationwide through Feb. 21, the CDC said, and Washington accounted for 69 of those. There have been six outbreaks nationwide, including in Illinois, Texas, New York City and Monroe and Rockland counties in New York state. An outbreak is defined as three or more cases at a time.

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Most cases in Washington are young children under age 10 who were not vaccinated.

Before Friday, Multnomah County — home to Portland, Oregon — had identified four people with measles and one who could have measles. One man in King County, which is home to Seattle, also had measles. Those cases were thought to be connected to the outbreak in southwest Washington, however.

The viral illness has a long incubation period and 21 days must pass without a new case before the outbreak could be considered over in southwest Washington, said Dr. Alan Melnick, public health director in Clark County, Washington.

State legislatures in both Washington and Oregon are considering laws that would remove non-medical exemptions for the routinely administered measles vaccine. Both states currently allow parents to opt out of the measles immunizations if they have a religious or philosophical objection.

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