Uptick In Measles Cases Highlights Need For Vaccination

Nov 8, 2013

Public health officials say recent measles cases in the Northwest highlight the need to be vaccinated against the infection.

While the highly-contagious illness remains rare, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting an uptick nationally in the number of cases this year.

More than 160,000 people die of measles worldwide each year. But the infection is rare in the U.S. Most cases involve travelers who pick up the illness overseas.

Public health officials credit the extremely low rate of measles here to high vaccination rates. But Oregon and Washington have some of the lowest rates in the nation for young children being vaccinated against measles. And that has public health officials concerned.

Paul Lewis is the deputy public health officer for three Portland area counties. He says the vast majority of people are immunized. But he adds, "with measles, the population immunity needs to be pretty high because it's such a contagious disease."

Oregon's had four confirmed cases of measles so far this year, after just one last year. The Washington Department of Health this summer reported the state's first three cases of measles in more than two years.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control reports at least 160 cases of measles, including one cluster in New York state that was the largest single outbreak since 1996.