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Snohomish County’s measles scare is part of worldwide battle

(File, Associated Press)

The measles virus was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. Fast-forward 18 years and we’re now being told to check if we’ve been vaccinated and if we have visited these places in Snohomish County because of potential exposures.

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So where is the discrepancy?

Though measles was declared eliminated, it doesn’t mean we won’t see outbreaks. In 2010 there were around 60 cases in the U.S. There were 188 cases in 2015.

Now there’s a chance that a girl from another country who developed a high fever and full body rash infected people in Snohomish County. Doctor Mark Beatty with the Snohomish Health District told KIRO Radio the girl became sick last month. By the time she was diagnosed with measles, she had already visited several businesses and health clinics.

Dr. Gordon Cohen told Seattle’s Morning News there’s a combination of things that can lead to increased exposure in the U.S. Though it was eliminated from the U.S. for at least 12 months, it’s still a common disease throughout the world. Dr. Cohen says about 20 million people a year catch it. Because people have made the decision over the past few decades to not vaccinate their children, that can increase the chances of seeing more infections in the states.

About 30 percent of cases include serious symptoms, Dr. Cohen explained. On top of the high fever, runny nose, cough, and body rash, some people can get diarrhea, pneumonia, and even become blind.

Though there was an increased resistance to vaccinations starting in the 1990s over fears that they increased a child’s chance to develop autism, Dr. Cohen says those fears are unfounded. The research that led to concerns over vaccinations was retracted, he explained.

Until measles are eradicated from the world — all member states in the six World Health Organization regions have committed to do this by 2020 — Dr. Cohen says vaccinations must continue.

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