Washington State's Measles Outbreak And Low Vaccine Rates

February 22nd, 2019

For centuries, people suffered from all kinds of illnesses, many of them resulting in death.

There simply weren’t enough options for prevention or treating the illnesses. The diseases kept spreading from person to person.

If you talk to your grandparents or other people who were around just several decades ago, you will hear stories about these diseases. They were probably affected in some way.

Some people lost family members and friends. People of all ages felt the effects of sicknesses that weren’t really preventable or treatable.

A Step Forwards

Now, modern medicine has done some amazing things. It has progressed and is changing the world for the better.

Vaccinations, medications, surgery, and all kinds of other medical options have made it easier to prevent and treat serious illnesses. Lots of interventions have been discovered or created in recent years.

Diseases that were once almost guaranteed to cause death can now be prevented with a simple vaccine. The success of vaccines is something that the world has needed for so long.

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cabriolet2008 via Flickr Source: cabriolet2008 via Flickr

A Step Backwards

Currently, there is a measles outbreak in the state of Washington. Their governor is calling it a public health emergency.

The first measles vaccine was used in the 1960s. After it was used throughout the United States for 40 years, measles was completely eradicated.

Globally, the death toll has decreased by 84%. This can be mostly attributed to the measles vaccine. From 2000 to 2016, approximately 20 million people have been saved.

Measles is a serious illness with long-lasting effects. It can result in pneumonia, brain damage, deafness, and death.

This serious disease was eradicated and shouldn’t have been able to come back.

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Dave Haygarth via Flickr Source: Dave Haygarth via Flickr

Sometimes a Difficult Decision

Unfortunately, not everyone trusts vaccines. Some parents refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children.

There isn’t a measles outbreak primarily due to lack of accessibility, cost, or any other factors. Parents simply aren’t allowing their children to get vaccines, which is also allowing this disease to run rampant.

When enough children are unvaccinated, the illness has the chance to spread easily. That’s exactly what’s going on in Washington.

Years ago, many dangerous diseases were able to be eradicated by vaccines. Now, some of those diseases are back.

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Justinvl via Flickr Source: Justinvl via Flickr

A Measles Outbreak

This is mostly an issue in Washington and other Pacific Northwestern states, where more parents opt out of vaccines. Washington and Oregon, in particular, have more relaxed vaccine laws.

Although vaccines are supposed to be required by schools, there are exemptions. These can be given to families for a number of reasons, including religious ones.

Because of this, in Clark County, Washington, 7.9% of the children going to kindergarten are not vaccinated.

One of the main problems now is that the measles is so contagious. The measles can even be spread through the air. This can happen hours after the infected person has left the area.

The Clark County government reported that people with the measles

“had visited public places including health care facilities, schools, and churches, as well as Ikea and Dollar Tree — potentially spreading measles to others.”

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Melly 65 via Flickr Source: Melly 65 via Flickr


When the measles vaccine is effective, it works with herd immunity. Herd immunity requires a large percentage of the population to be vaccinated to work.

Herd immunity is effective because it prevents diseases from spreading. Then, those who cannot be vaccinated, like young babies, are less likely to contract the disease.

When a number of people are not vaccinated, like in Washington, herd immunity is no longer effective. There are so many unvaccinated people that the disease can spread easily.

Now, in Washington, those young babies and other people who cannot be vaccinated, are catching the measles. They are being exposed to a disease that was formerly non-existent.

In order to prevent the spread of eradicated diseases, parents need to do thorough research and take precautions. The easiest way is to follow the recommended vaccine schedule. For those who do not vaccinate, that may include avoiding public spaces in which illnesses can be easily spread, especially during outbreaks.

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Jim Corwin via Flickr Source: Jim Corwin via Flickr

Source: ScaryMommy