With worries about measles heightened because of an outbreak in Clark County, health care professionals say the best defense is to be immunized. If you haven’t had the vaccination already, or if you aren’t sure whether you have, you can likely still get it.

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As a measles outbreak rages in Clark County, health care professionals advise a simple solution: Get vaccinated.

“The key thing is vaccinations,” said John Lynch, an associate professor of medicine and allergy and infectious diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Despite measles being declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, there have been periodic outbreaks. At least 47 people in southwest Washington’s Clark County have been infected with measles during the past couple of weeks, according to data posted on the Clark County Public Health website on Feb. 3. The agency reported an additional seven suspected cases. A King County man who had traveled to Clark County contracted the virus. He was hospitalized and has since recovered.

“I would hope that this ends soon, but this could go on for weeks, if not months,” Alan Melnick, public health director for Clark County told The Associated Press.

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak. Washington and Oregon are two of 18 states that allow non-medical exemptions for vaccines (i.e., for philosophical or personal reasons). Washington state lawmakers recently proposed banning such exemptions.

Before entering kindergarten, most children receive the two-dose MMR vaccination, which protects them from measles, mumps and rubella throughout their lives.

“What is great about the MMR vaccination, especially the measles portion: It is very, very effective,” said Lynch, who is also medical director of Harborview Medical Center’s infection control, antibiotic stewardship and employee health programs.

If you haven’t gotten the vaccination already, you likely still can. The only exceptions: B abies younger than 1 year old, people with autoimmune issues and pregnant women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you are not sure about your immunization status, and you cannot locate your vaccination records, it is safe to get the MMR vaccine. A doctor can also run a blood test to determine whether you are immune.

Communities with immunization rates of 95 percent, a threshold known as “herd immunity,” are better prepared to ward off the virus. Clark County, ground zero for the outbreak, has a 78 percent vaccination rate.

Lynch and the CDC recommend a few other simple, common-sense actions to protect from the spread of measles:

  • Recognize the symptoms. Early signs of measles resemble those of a cold or the flu: A runny nose, cough, fever, red eyes and sore throat tend to appear before the telltale rash begins to spread.
  • Avoid sick people, especially those who are coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay home if you are experiencing cold- or flu-like symptoms.

 

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