Northwest measles outbreak prompts look at vaccine exemptions

VANCOUVER, Wash. – A measles outbreak near Portland, Oregon, has revived a bitter debate over so-called "philosophical" exemptions to childhood vaccinations as public health officials across the Pacific Northwest scramble to limit the fallout. At least 43 people in Washington and Oregon have fallen ill in recent weeks with the extraordinarily contagious virus, which was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000 as a result of immunization but arrives periodically with overseas travelers. More than a dozen more cases are suspected, and people who were exposed to the disease traveled to Hawaii and Bend, Oregon, raising the possibility of more diagnoses in the unvaccinated. MASSACHUSETTS BOY, 12, DIES OF FLU-RELATED ILLNESS, OFFICIALS SAY Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak. "I would hope that this ends soon, but this could go on for weeks, if not months," said Dr. Alan Melnick, public health director in Clark County, Washington, just north of Portland.

The county has had most of the diagnosed cases so far. "This is an exquisitely contagious disease."

The outbreak has lawmakers in Washington state revisiting non-medical exemptions that allow children to attend school without vaccinations if their parents or guardians express a personal objection.

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