Virginia health officials ‘sleeping with one eye open’ amid measles outbreak

Virginia health officials ‘sleeping with one eye open’ amid measles outbreak
Officials say mumps and measles are on the rise because of people opting out of vaccinations.

So far, Virginia has been spared from the blossoming measles outbreaks that have spread to 15 states, the second-largest number seen in the U.S. since the disease was eliminated in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health officials say they’re always on high alert for measles, a highly contagious infection that hasn’t been eradicated everywhere in the world. It’s really just an international plane ride away, said Marshall Vogt, epidemiologist with the Department of Health’s Division of Immunization.

But what about outbreaks on U.S. soil?

“We’re probably at the eyebrow-raised level,” Vogt said. “Sleeping with one eye open, so to speak.”

Virginia hasn’t had any outbreaks so far this year, and it’s had only three cases of mumps, another infection that isn’t quite as contagious as measles.

Because the U.S. eliminated measles in the 1990s, Vogt explained, any cases were imported in, leaving people who have not been vaccinated vulnerable.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.