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Washington among top states in measles outbreak that has hit 20-year high

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SEATTLE - Washington state is one of a handful of places where a national measles outbreak has hit record levels this year.

Fifteen cases of the viral respiratory disease that is spread through the air have been reported in the state since January, The Seattle Times reported (http://is.gd/JXnRb6 ).

The last measles spike in Washington was in 2008, when Grant County had 19 cases.

So far this year, a Whatcom County resident attending school in British Columbia infected five friends and family members. A man from San Juan County who travelled to Southeast Asia — an area prone to measles outbreaks — infected six others. One child from Skagit County was infected after her first immunization dose. Her source of measles is unknown.

The latest case of measles was May 17 in Snohomish County, contracted by an unimmunized man who travelled to Indonesia. There were no reports of anybody catching the disease from him.

"Our experience here in Washington is consistent to what's being seen nationally," said Chas DeBolt, senior epidemiologist for vaccine-preventable diseases for the Washington State Department of Health.

State health officials report 10 of the people who came down with measles in Washington had opted out of getting vaccinated for philosophical, medical or religious reasons. Four of the people's immunization histories were unknown, and one had been vaccinated once outside of the U.S. Only one has been hospitalized.

Nationwide, 195 of the 288 people who came down with measles this year were unvaccinated. Of those, 165, or 85 per cent, chose to go without vaccinations for personal, religious or philosophical reasons, not because of medical reasons or because they were too young.

Most cases are related to unvaccinated Americans and foreign visitors who travelled from Europe, Africa and Asia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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