Clark County Public Health’s latest update on the measles outbreak today has a total of 49 confirmed cases, with nine more suspected.
Last week the county health department announced that one of the cases was an individual who had one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, though they noted that two doses is the recommended amount in order to have as much immunity as possible.
Public Health Director Alan Melnick noted in a news release that although the vaccine “isn’t perfect” with the recommended two doses of the vaccine the protection would be greater, going to 97 percent from 93 if only one dose has been received.
The outbreak has been investigated by Public Health since Jan. 1 and both Clark County and Gov. Jay Inslee have declared public health emergencies in their respective capacities.
Local legislators putting forth bills requiring vaccines
Following the outbreak two Clark County lawmakers for Washington State have put forth or plan to put bills requiring removal of a personal exemption for varying levels of vaccinations. Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, had his bill, HB 1638, read into the Legislature Jan. 25, with a scheduled hearing before the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness Feb. 8.
Harris’ bill would remove the personal exemption specifically for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, while leaving that exemption for other mandated vaccines. This would apply to any child attending a public or private school or state-licensed daycare.
Fellow Clark County legislator Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, has announced she is drafting legislation that will go a step further, removing personal exemptions for all vaccines.
Personal exemptions are one of three types allowed under Washington State law, alongside exemptions based on a medical professional’s opinion and those on religious grounds. A release from the Washington Senate Democratic Party notes Cleveland is the chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee, adding that the personal exemption is the one “used most often and is least substantiated.”
The release notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had declared measles eliminated in 2000.
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 am 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-investigation.
Anyone with questions about measles infection or the measles vaccine should call their primary care provider or Clark County Public Health, (360) 397-8021.