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Uptick In Measles Cases Highlights Need For Vaccination

File photo. Recent measles cases in the Northwest highlight the need to be vaccinated against the infection.
Wikimedia
File photo. Recent measles cases in the Northwest highlight the need to be vaccinated against the infection.

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.

Copyright 2013 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.