SALEM — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown urged residents to get vaccinated Thursday as public health officials in Oregon and Washington reported a combined 56 confirmed cases of measles.
The Oregon Legislature will likely look at ways to tighten the state’s immunization rules in the wake of the Pacific Northwest measles outbreak, Brown said, although she didn’t point to any specific proposal.
“I think we need to strengthen our legislation,” she said.
Washington state lawmakers, meanwhile, will hold a public hearing Friday on a bill that would remove the so-called “philosophical” exemption for the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR.
Advocates on both sides of the childhood vaccines debate are expected to attend.
Clark County, Washington — where the outbreak began Dec. 31 — reported Wednesday that it has identified 13 additional suspected cases, including four in unvaccinated people who had contact with contagious individuals.
Fifty-one of the confirmed measles cases are in southwest Washington, one is in the Seattle area and four are in the Portland metropolitan area.
Three more possible exposure sites were also identified in Vancouver, Washington, on Wednesday, leading to the possibility of more cases.
“Any time we start getting a little optimistic, something happens. We’re hopeful, and any time we see that there are no new exposure locations, that’s helpful,” said Marissa Armstrong, spokeswoman for the Clark County Public Health. “But I think we all still know that it’s not over yet.”
Measles is a highly contagious and potentially dangerous viral illness that is transmitted through coughing and sneezing.
Forty-four of the patients in southwest Washington were not vaccinated against the disease, and one patient had one shot of the two-shot series.