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Cautious Optimism That Clark County Measles Outbreak Is Ending

It’s been 19 days since Clark County, Washington, last announced a new case of measles. The public health department is cautiously optimistic the outbreak is ending.

Clark County isn’t celebrating yet. But it has closed the incident command center where up to 40 public health officials spent their days tracking infectious cases.

The six regular staff are now working on all the health issues that were put aside during the height of the outbreak.

Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said the incubation period for measles lasts between one and three weeks.

 

“We’re almost one incubation period since that last exposure. If we go two — which would be April 28 I believe — then we would declare the outbreak over,” Melnick said.

They’re waiting for two incubation periods because they’re not sure all cases have been reported.

To date, there have been 73 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County. Sixty-three involved people who weren't immunized, three affected people who were immunized and in seven of the cases officials were uncertain of the people's vaccine status.

Melnick is worried that once the outbreak does end, people will become complacent. He said that while immunization rates increased during the outbreak, they've already started to drop again.

The importance of vaccinations should be part of an ongoing discussion among everyone in the community, Melnick said, not just doctors. He thinks that in the future, the county might enlist the help of the religious community to spread the message about the importance of immunizations.

"This a public safety and school safety issue," Melnick said.

The outbreak cost the county about $800,000. It’s now asking for help with those bills from the Washington state Legislature.

Melnick said he hopes to work with the Centers for Disease Control on a report about the outbreak.

Clark County conducted 4,000 initial investigations during the outbreak, sent 3,300 monitoring letters to residents and, at the peak, was monitoring 893 people every day.

Public health staff came from all over the Pacific Northwest to help. The Centers for Disease Control sent three staff members. The Medical Reserve Corps sent 50.

About 850 students were excluded from 15 schools. They attended schools across three public school districts and two private schools.

<p>Clark County public health director, Dr. Alan Melnick, has closed the incident command center. His staff is now working on all the health issues that were put aside as they dealt with the outbreak.</p>

Kristian Foden-Vencil

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Clark County public health director, Dr. Alan Melnick, has closed the incident command center. His staff is now working on all the health issues that were put aside as they dealt with the outbreak.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.