A public health emergency has been declared in Clark County, Washington, which is near the border of Oregon and close to Portland. The declaration is a result of an ongoing measles outbreak.

According to the latest update from the county’s Department of Health, 23 cases of measles have been confirmed and health officials are investigating two more suspected cases.

The majority of cases are in children aged 1 to 10. Four cases are in children and teens aged 11 to 18, and one person aged 19 to 29 has been infected.

Measles is an extremely contagious infection that is serious for small children but is easily preventable by vaccine. Symptoms, which include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever, and a red, blotchy skin rash, usually develop 10 to 12 days after exposure and last 7 to 10 days.

It appears the root cause of this emergency is the lack of vaccinations. Eighteen of the 23 sick people are under the age of 10 and 20 of the 23 didn’t get their measles vaccine, and one person has been hospitalized.

This is exactly the kind of scenario public health experts have been warning about. In 2018, the World Health Organization said measles cases had surged by 30% around the globe, with some of the biggest hikes in places like the US and Europe, where more parents are opting not to give their kids recommended shots like MMR (protecting against measles, mumps, and rubella).

“This is something I’ve predicted for a while now,” Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told The Washington Post. “It’s really awful and really tragic and totally preventable.”

The reason that Portland has been featured in many reports is that the city is known to be an anti-vaccination “hot spot.” Researchers reported in the journal PLOS Medicine that since 2009 there has been an increase in the number of children enrolling in kindergarten with a non-medical exemption at higher rates in specific geographic areas, including Portland. Other cities that are “hot spots” are:

  • Seattle, WA,
  • Spokane, WA
  • Phoenix, AZ,
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Provo, UT,
  • Houston, TX
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Plano, TX,
  • Austin, TX
  • Troy, MI
  • Warren, MI
  • Detroit, MI
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Pittsburgh, PA

Public health officials are also warning that fans who attended a Portland Trail Blazers NBA game in Oregon earlier this month may have been exposed to measles.

Officials in Multnomah County, Oregon said an individual “known to be contagious with the disease” attended the game on Jan. 11 and may have exposed other attendees to the viral infection if they were at Portland’s Moda Center between 5:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. T

…According to NBC, there have been no confirmed cases in Oregon yet.

This news comes on the heels of New York reporting a record number of measles cases, mainly among ultra-orthodox Jewish communities. The lack of vaccinations were also blamed for the spread.