A measles outbreak near Portland has now sickened 35 people in Oregon and Washington, with 11 more cases suspected. Thirty-one of the patients had not been vaccinated against measles, and the status of four others who were infected is not known. One child has been hospitalized. Washington state's Clark County declared a public health emergency over the outbreak earlier this month and Gov. Jay Inslee declared the emergency to be statewide last Friday. Public health officials struggling to contain the highly contagious virus say the outbreak is a textbook example of why it's critical to vaccinate against childhood diseases, the AP reports.
Measles was eradicated in the US after a safe and cheap vaccine was developed in 1963, but in recent years, outbreaks from New York to California have sickened hundreds. The vaccination rate in the area is 78% lower than average, and that's making it harder to contain the outbreak. Washington and Oregon both allow parents to decline the measles vaccination because of personal objections, which is one of the reasons why Portland, Spokane, and Seattle are considered measles "hotspots," NPR reports. (Dozens of people died in a measles outbreak in Europe last year.)