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Public health officials remind parents to vaccinate their children for virus before school starts.

CDC GRAPHIC - A child with measles can be seen in this graphic cteated by the CDC. As local children sprint back to class, public health officials in Multnomah and Clackamas counties are sounding the alarm — not just the school bell.

A rash of measles cases has sickened 23 people — mostly children — in Oregon so far this year. It's the highest count of confirmed diagnoses since 1991, when nearly 100 in Oregon caught the virus.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, the deputy health officer for Multnomah County, says it's parents' responsibility to make sure kids take their shots for measles, mumps and rubella.

"Measles is a serious illness," said Dr. Vines. "People are miserable for a week and very contagious while sick."

The Oregon Health Authority has tracked three measles outbreaks this year. The most recent instance began in July in Multnomah and Clackamas counties, ultimately spreading to nine individuals, none of who were immunized.

Officials say they remained in home quarantine while contagious, but the potential for further breakouts is real.

"The vaccine is safe and effective," said Dr. Vines. "Fully vaccinated kids also protect their siblings, friends and teachers."

Some readers may recall that measles was declared officially eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. That did not mean the virus was eradicated worldwide, but outbreaks here were typically linked to foreign travel, and flare-ups didn't last for more than 365 days.

But this year, more than 1,200 in 30 U.S. states have been diagnosed with measles, and specialists believe that the Centers for Disease Control will be forced to rescind the country's elimination status by 2020.

Symptoms of measles include a runny nose, cough, heavy fever and full-body rash. Less common complications involve permanent hearing loss, blindness, pneumonia and potentially-lethal brain infection.

Kids who attend daycare or school in Oregon are required by law to be vaccinated for polio, hepatitis and whooping cough, and other infections.

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