Most measles cases in Washington state since 1996

Most measles cases in Washington state since 1996
CDC photo shows child with classic measles rash.
OLYMPIA, Wash. - There have been 27 measles cases reported so far this year in Washington.

The state Health Department says that's more than the past five years combined and the highest number since 1996.

The department says the increase in the state is part of a national trend linked to travelers bringing the disease to communities where people aren't vaccinated. Many of the travelers had been to the Philippines, where a recent measles epidemic has caused at least 20,000 illnesses.

The Washington state numbers remain relatively tiny, but officials are worried to see case counts growing.

Since 2000, the highly contagious disease has been considered eliminated in the United States, aside from occasional small outbreaks sparked by overseas travelers.

For most of the last decade, the nation as a whole was seeing only about 60 cases a year. But since 2010, the average has been nearly 160.

The measles virus spreads easily through the air, and in closed rooms. Infected droplets can linger for up to two hours after the sick person leaves.

It causes a fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. In rare cases, measles can be deadly, and is particularly dangerous for children. Infection can also cause pregnant women to have a miscarriage or premature birth.

Before a vaccine became available about 50 years ago, nearly all children got measles by their 15th birthday. In those days, nearly 500 Americans died from measles each year.