The latest Clark County Public Health update on the measles outbreak as of press deadline had no new confirmed cases, with the total remaining at 53 since Friday. Two more are suspected.
In the agency’s Sunday update, Public Health noted a few potential exposure sites had been ruled out, explaining the rash seen in those cases was related to the patients receiving the vaccine, not the disease. In 5 percent of first-time vaccinations, a rash may occur.
Exposure sites at Sea Mar Medical Clinic Salmon Creek on Feb. 1 and Feb. 4, The Vancouver Clinic Salmon Creek on Jan. 30 and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center Emergency Department on Feb. 2 have been removed from the list.
Rep. Harris’ bill to remove MMR personal exemption has hearing
Last week saw a hearing for State Rep. Paul Harris’ bill that would remove the personal exemption for the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Harris, R-Vancouver, took part in a press conference following the hearing alongside Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiseman and other medical professionals.
Questions at the press conference ranged from the efficacy of the vaccine to how its complications compare to the disease. Swedish Pediatrics Doctor Rupin Thakkar said that 1 to 2 per 1,000 of people who get measles die in places in the world but locally, for complications in those who receive the vaccine, “the number is close to zero. We have not been able to show that causation at all.”
“The challenge in today’s world is that most people haven’t seen this, and they haven’t seen this because vaccines are effective,” Wiseman said.
Since the outbreak gained attention, the number of people being vaccinated has increased. Normally 200 people a week usually get the measles vaccine in Clark County, but in the week starting Jan. 13, 644 had received it, 1,073 the next week and 1,002 in the following week.
Wiseman said enforcement of Harris’ bill would be at the school district level, with Harris adding he would have an amendment to his bill to require school districts “to get their records up to snuff.” Though he admitted the vaccine wouldn’t prevent 100 percent of measles cases, Harris noted the numbers were good enough for him.
“We all want to have perfect science,” Harris said, recalling a bout with cancer he had where even with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation his doctor said he only had a 95 percent chance of beating the disease, a number similar to immunization rates with the measles vaccine.
“I think (that rate) is pretty good. I know I gambled my life with that,” Harris remarked.
Harris’ bill is currently set for two executive session discussions in the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness.
Measles: what to know
Those who may have been exposed and believe they have measles symptoms are asked to contact their healthcare provider prior to visiting their offices to avoid more exposure.
Public Health is requiring the exclusion of students and staff without documented immunity to measles from schools identified as possible exposure sites. The exclusion does not apply to students and staff at schools where measles exposure did not occur.
Those with the disease are contagious for four days before a rash appears and up to four days after the rash appears, according to Public Health. The department noted that children younger than 5 and adults older than 20 were most likely to suffer complications including lung and ear infections, diarrhea and in rare cases swelling of the brain.
Public health did note some likely immune groups, such as those born before 1957, those who are certain they have already had the disease and those up-to-date on vaccines — one dose for children up to four years old and two doses for those four and older.
Public Health has established a call center for questions about the investigation: (360) 397-8021. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, including weekends. There is also a website which, among other things, features an up-to-date list of potential exposure locations: clark.wa.gov/public-health/measles-in
Anyone with questions about measles infection or the measles vaccine should call their primary care provider or Clark County Public Health, (360) 397-8021.