With Confirmed Measles Cases In Many Nearby States, Idaho Health Officials Urge Vaccination

Feb 4, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control says a measles outbreak that spread from California's Disneyland has now reached 14 states and infected 102 people. No cases have been confirmed in Idaho, but many neighboring states are on the list including Utah, Washington and Oregon.

"We worry that it’s only a matter of time before we do see measles cases in Idaho," says Dr. Christine Hahn, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's medical director for the division of public health.

Hahn is urging anyone who hasn't been vaccinated against the virus to get their immunization shots. She says the two-dose vaccine is about 97 percent effective in protecting against measles.

It was thanks to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, that in 2000 the CDC declared measles eliminated in the United States. Still, outbreaks of the highly-contagious virus do occur in the U.S.

Idaho's last-known case of measles was in 2001, according the Department of Health and Welfare.

The measles vaccine is recommended but not required in Idaho. State law gives parents the ability to opt their children out of vaccinations for religions, medical or philosophical reasons.

The Department of Health and Welfare says Idaho's childhood (ages 19-35 months) MMR vaccination rate is slightly above the national average at 91.1 percent. For school-aged children, 4.8 percent opt-out of the MMR vaccine.

“What I’m hoping is that those same people that might have thought it was best not to vaccinate their child last year or a few years ago, might strongly reconsider," Hahn says. "Now, the situation is different. A few years ago they might have felt like ‘well, measles was so rare in this country, so I don’t need to worry about it’.”

Hahn says that in addition to the measles outbreak, another reason to make sure your immunizations are up to date is because of Idaho's mumps outbreak. Twenty-one mumps cases have been confirmed in Idaho since late last year. The outbreak spread from the University of Idaho campus.

She describes both outbreaks as unprecedented.

"We haven't had this many cases [of mumps] in the state since about 1990," Hahn says. "It is the same vaccine [for mumps and measles], so hopefully those two messages are complimenting each other and parents are listening and making sure their kids have been vaccinated against both those diseases." 

Find Emilie Ritter Saunders on Twitter @emiliersaunders

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