Idaho Health Officials Vigilant As Measles Strike Washington And Oregon

Jan 29, 2019

Idaho health officials are urging Gem State residents to check their immunization status as a measles outbreak impacts Washington and Oregon.
Credit tschoppi / Flickr

Over 35 cases of measles have been confirmed in Washington, and cases are appearing in Oregon too. With the highly contagious virus on the state’s doorstep, Idaho authorities are bracing for it to appear here.


It’s one of the most contagious diseases known to medicine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles can linger in the air where someone with the virus coughed or sneezed for up to two hours. Ninety percent of those who aren’t immune to the virus will contract it if they come in contact with an infected person.

Idaho Health and Welfare spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr says her department is on alert.

“We’re keeping our eyes and ears open to what’s happening in other states,” Forbing-Orr says. “And then we’re also communicating very closely with the public health districts to make sure we’re all on board and keeping an eye out for any potential cases.”

Forbing-Orr says as cases of measles become increasingly rare with vaccination, many doctors have never seen a case in-person. The department is making sure physicians are aware of signs of the disease.

Health and Welfare is also encouraging people make sure their vaccinations are up to date. Immunization rates have gone down in recent years for fear of complications like autism being linked to vaccines.

Forbing-Orr shuts that down unequivocally: “Vaccines have been considered safe and they don’t cause autism. Period, full stop,” she says.

Last year, there were 349 cases of measles in the U.S. – the second most since the disease was declared eradicated in 2000.

Correction: The spokesperson for Idaho Health and Welfare, Niki Forbing-Orr, reached out to Boise State Public Radio after this story was published pointing out a technical error by the department. A map linked to in this story contained inaccurate data about county-wide vaccination rates. Forbing-Orr described the map as an experiment and says a technical error at Health and Welfare led to the link being publicly available. At the moment, the state provides a breakdown of immunization rates at the individual school level but not county-by-county. According to Forbing-Orr, Idaho's total vaccination rate is 86.8 percent; she says that level is "probably a little lower than we'd like to see."

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