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Measles outbreak sparks debate over vaccination

There have been no reported cases of measles this year in Florida. There were 15 cases last year.
Credit: WTSP

TAMPA, Fla. — A measles outbreak near Portland, Ore., has revived a debate over so-called "philosophical" exemptions to childhood vaccinations as public health officials scramble to limit the fallout.

At least 44 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said widespread use of measles vaccine resulted in a 99 percent reduction in measles cases compared to the pre-vaccine era. Measles is still common in other countries. The Washington Post reports that researchers estimate there were 6.7 million cases in 2017, with the majority in poorer countries.

Related: Measles outbreak reignites debate over vaccine laws

Thus far in 2019, there haven’t been any reported cases of measles in Florida.

In 2019, there have been 79 cases of measles in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak. Of at least 44 cases in the Pacific Northwest, 37 are people who were not immunized.

In Florida, the Florida Department of Health said there were 15 reported cases of measles in 2018. Fewer than 10 cases were reported each year from 2010-2017.

The Florida Department of Health says the best way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated.

Related: Florida vaccine exemptions are easy to get

Reported cases of measles by year, according to the department of health:

  • 2018: 15
  • 2017: 3
  • 2016: 5
  • 2015: 5
  • 2014: 0
  • 2013: 7
  • 2012: 0
  • 2011: 8
  • 2010: 1

Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, the CDC estimates 3-4 million people got measles each year in the U.S.

About 500,000 cases were reported to the CDC. Among those cases:

  • 400-500 people died
  • 48,000 people were hospitalized
  • 1,000 developed encephalitis or brain swelling from measles

Note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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