Alaska May Mandate
Measles Vaccinations
For 80,000 Children
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Faced with the largest outbreak of measles in the country this year, Alaska officials are considering a second vaccination for thousands of school-age children across the state.
The order, which could come as early as Friday, would affect up to 80,000 students.
"Initially we focused on Anchorage. We feel the need now to expand this second dose measles immunization throughout the state," said Dr. Peter Nakamura, director of the state Division of Public Health.
The outbreak began Sept. 16 at a high school in Anchorage. By Thursday, there were 18 confirmed cases and 22 suspected cases at eight different schools in the state's largest city, and a handful of suspected cases in two nearby school districts.
Because children from around the state travel to Anchorage for athletic competitions and other activities, health officials said it was highly probable that the outbreak would spread.
The Alaska outbreak is the nation's largest this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Measles is highly infectious. In rare cases it can lead to pneumonia or encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can cause permanent brain damage.
The measles vaccine is good, but not perfect, said Dr. Mark Papania, who heads the CDC's measles elimination program.
The only way to stop the spread of the disease quickly is to immunize people with a second dose of the vaccine. There is virtually no transmission of measles among those who have been vaccinated twice, Papania said.