‘Tragic and preventable’: Measles outbreak spreads across anti-vaccine ‘hotspot’ in Washington

Officials have reported 25 confirmed cases so far.

Image source: U.S. Government / Wikimedia Commons
  • The outbreak occurred in an area described by one doctor as a 'hotspot' for outbreaks due to its extraordinarily high number of unvaccinated children.
  • The parents of children in Washington, Oregon and 16 other states are allowed to apply for personal or philosophical exemptions from the vaccines required to get into public school.
  • The World Health Organization calls the propensity not to get vaccinated "vaccine hesitancy," and the organization said one of its goals over the next 5 years is to decrease this hesitancy.

Update Saturday, January 26, 2019: There are now 31 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County, Washington.

Update Friday, February 1, 2019: There are now 42 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County, Washington.

Update Thursday, February 7, 2019: There are now 50 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County, Washington.

Update Monday, February 18, 2019: There are now 61 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County, Washington.

Update Saturday, March 2, 2019: There are now 70 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County, Washington.

A measles outbreak has spread across an anti-vaccination "hotspot" in Clark County, Wash., causing officials to declare a public health emergency.

The outbreak has infected at least 25 people so far, including 18 children between the ages of 1 and 10, according to a government release last updated on January 24. At least one person has been hospitalized. Officials are prohibiting students and staff without documented immunity from entering schools identified as possible exposure sites.

The outbreak occurred about 25 miles north of Portland, Oregon, in Clark County, an area known for its low rate of immunization. In an interview with the Washington Post, Peter J. Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, described the county as a "hotspot" for outbreaks.

"This is something I've predicted for a while now," he said about the outbreak. "It's really awful and really tragic and totally preventable."

About 8 percent of children in Clark County were exempt from getting the vaccinations required to enter public school kindergarten in the 2017–2018 school year. The majority of those kids had received exemptions for personal or philosophical reasons. An increasing number of American public school students have been granted these so-called non-medical exemptions in recent years, which are currently allowed in 18 states. A 2018 study found that Portland had one of the highest numbers of kindergartens who had received such exemptions.

Image source: National Conference of State Legislatures

"Portland is a total train wreck when it comes to vaccine rates," Hotez told the Post.

In parts of Oregon and Washington, these exemptions have almost surely helped to push local populations outside of what's known as herd immunity — the level of immunization that needs to occur in a population in order to prevent the spread of a contagious disease. A 2018 analysis conducted by The Oregonian estimated that some 65 percent of Oregon's public charter schools lack herd immunity, and that a much smaller yet still significant number of public schools lack herd immunity.

Clark County officials wrote that "measles is extremely contagious. The virus travels through the air and can stay up to two hours in the air of a room where a person with measles has been… Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected."

The World Health Organization's 'Vaccine Hesitancy' plan

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) began a 5-year "strategic plan" focused on a "triple billion target: ensuring 1 billion more people benefit from access to universal health coverage, 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies, and 1 billion more people enjoy better health and well-being. Reaching this goal will require addressing the threats to health from a variety of angles."

One part of that plan is eliminating vaccine hesitancy, which the WHO defines as "the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines."

"[Vaccine hesitancy] threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease — it currently prevents 2–3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved."

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

The history of using the Insurrection Act against Americans

Numerous U.S. Presidents invoked the Insurrection Act to to quell race and labor riots.

The army during riots in Washington, DC, after the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., April 1968.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • U.S. Presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act on numerous occasions.
  • The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
  • The Act has been used mainly to restore order following race and labor riots.
Keep reading Show less

Facebook finally adds option to delete old posts in batches

Got any embarrassing old posts collecting dust on your profile? Facebook wants to help you delete them.

Facebook
Technology & Innovation
  • The feature is called Manage Activity, and it's currently available through mobile and Facebook Lite.
  • Manage Activity lets users sort old content by filters like date and posts involving specific people.
  • Some companies now use AI-powered background checking services that scrape social media profiles for problematic content.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…