Washington measles outbreak sends vaccine demand soaring, even among the hesitant

The Vancouver Clinic in Vancouver Wash. to warn patients and visitors of a measles outbreak Jan. 30 2019

Gillian Flaccus AP FILE

That is almost a 500 percent jump in orders from January a year ago, when the total was just 530. As soon as vaccination rates fall, old diseases re-emerge.

Health officials have long feared an outbreak in the area, given the rampant skepticism of vaccines driven by misinformation and fear-mongering by anti-vaccine advocates.

Measles is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes.

The orders represent only state-supplied vaccines requested through the federal Vaccines for Children program, which provides free immunizations to children who otherwise couldn't afford them. "I would rather it not take an outbreak for this to happen", Alan Melnick, the Clark County health officer overseeing the response, told KHN.

Discovering even one case of measles in Arizona would be considered a public health emergency for the state.

The Pacific Northwest outbreak includes one confirmed case in King County, where Seattle is located, and four in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, Oregon.

Jake Patterson, man accused of kidnapping Jayme Closs, appearing in court
Patterson then allegedly took the teen to his cabin near Gordon, a township of 645 people in thickly forested Douglas County. Members of Closs' family were in attendance on the opposite side of the courtroom from the suspect's supporters.

Most of the infections have occurred in children, under age 18, who were unvaccinated.

They said there's no shortage of these vaccines in the community, and they encourage anyone who hasn't received it to get it done.

Measles cases are surfacing across the country as an outbreak tied to the highly contagious viral infection continues to spread.

"The measles vaccine isn't flawless, but one dose is 93 percent effective at preventing illness", Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County's health officer, said in a statement.

Across the US, 10 states - California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington - reported 79 confirmed measles cases in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most cases last about two weeks, some patients can develop unsafe infections in the lungs or even brain swelling from the virus.

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