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Measles outbreak: What Seattle-area parents need to know


Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency (here's the proclamation) in light of a cluster of measles cases, mostly in southwestern Washington, that is being declared an outbreak and a public-health crisis.

Naturally, that has prompted fear in families across the state and also spotlighted again the clusters of opposition to vaccination.

We're going to stick with the medical facts about measles in general and this particular outbreak, so Seattle's Child readers are armed with what they need to know.

More on measles: Facts and advice from a doctor and dad (Dad Next Door).

Here's the place on the state Department of Health website to find the latest news, including updated numbers of confirmed cases.

As of Monday morning (Feb. 11), those figures were 53 cases in Clark County (mostly children) and one case in King County (an adult who had visited the affected area). The Seattle-King County Health Department has more detail about the local victim, including places where he could have exposed others. In addition, four cases have been confirmed in Multnomah County, Oregon, across the river from Clark County.

Anyone who believes they may have been exposed should first check their own immunization status, then watch for symptoms.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle Children's pediatrician who blogs as Seattle Mama Doc, wrote on the subject this week and gives a lot of good information, including this reassurance: "If your children are immunized there is very little to worry about during a measles outbreak." She also addresses how to protect the youngest children, since the first dose of the MMR vaccine is not given until the age of 12 months.

This outbreak has highlighted the high rates of vaccination objectors in the Pacific Northwest and brought renewed calls in Washington to end what is known as the philosophical objection to vaccinating. Religious objections and health exceptions would remain.

Measles is known to be highly contagious — in other words, very easy to contract if an unvaccinated, non-immune person is exposed. General symptoms are fever, diarrhea, coughing, runny nose, red and watery eyes and tiredness. A rash usually develops a few days after the initial symptoms. The rash tends to start on the face and then spread.

Measles usually lasts seven to 10 days.



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