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Officials Dispute Report On Measles Threat In Allegheny County

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Is Allegheny County at particular risk for a measles outbreak?

State and county officials are pushing back at a report that aired Wednesday night on the CBS Evening News.

The CBS report focused on an outbreak of the measles in a county in Washington state where they have an exceptionally high number of children with non-medical exemptions from getting the measles vaccine.

The report said our region is at risk of a similar outbreak because a large number of kids have these so-called "non-medical exemptions."

"Doctors now worry the virus will spread to other hotspots across the country in large metropolitan areas like Seattle, Phoenix, Detroit and Pittsburgh," the report said.

State and county health officials deny the report, however, saying that Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are not hotspots for these kinds of exemptions and are in no particular danger of a measles outbreak.

"The data in Allegheny County is very similar, if not even a little lower than the rest of the state. The exemptions here are very low," state health department spokesperson Nate Wardle said.

CBS cited discredited data from a study which had shown that Pittsburgh and Allegheny County ranked 12th in the nation for kids not getting vaccination on religious or personal grounds. The authors of that study retracted that figure, however, when it was shown that they had doubled the actual number.

"Pennsylvania's exemption rates are low compared to many other states, and many of the counties in Pennsylvania also have low exemption rates. So the data was incorrect in that study," Wardle said.

The state says the incidence of actual cases in the Pittsburgh area is also low. There have been three confirmed cases of measles in Allegheny County in the past five years. One of those was reported last year.

Still, measles are making a comeback throughout the nation, and while some states do not allow non-medical exemptions to the vaccine, Pennsylvania is one of the states that grants them.

"We encourage people to make sure they get those vaccines. They are a safe and effective way to protect kids," Wardle said.

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County may not have a large number of non-medical exemptions or actual cases of measles, but health experts say that shouldn't make us any less vigilant, making sure our children are up to date on their vaccinations.

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