The new year began with a concerning measles outbreak in Clark County, Washington. A whopping 22 cases have been reported since Jan. 1, according to The Oregonian, and that number is mostly comprised of unvaccinated children.
If you follow public health news closely, you probably noticed a large number of measles outbreaks in 2018. A total of "349 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia" in 2018, marking "the second-greatest number of annual cases reported since measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unfortunately, 2019 is already shaping up to be another bad year regarding measles. Clark County in Washington state is in the midst of a measles outbreak, reaching a total of 22 cases as well as three suspect cases on Monday, Jan. 21, as Clark County Public Health noted on its website.
Out of the 22 cases, 17 patients are aged between 1 to 10, four fall into the 11 to 18 category, and one person is between 19 to 29 years old, according to Clark County Public Health.
But the most troubling piece of information? Nineteen patients are unvaccinated, while it's unclear whether the remaining three people are vaccinated, according to Clark County Public Health.
If you live in Clark County, it's important to note that possible exposure areas include PeaceHealth Urgent Care - Memorial, Orchards Elementary School, and a local Dollar Tree, according to ABC News.
Additionally, Clark County Public Health "is requiring exclusion of students and staff without documented immunity to measles from only those schools identified as possible exposure sites," according to The Columbian. If your child is excluded from these schools, they are also "excluded from other schools, child care and other congregate setting," the publication reported, which added that staff and students where measles exposure "did not occur" are "not impacted by exclusions."
This isn't the first time health officials have required students to stay home from school amid a measles outbreak. In early December 2018, the New York City Department of Health required unvaccinated students to stay home from some schools after 39 cases of the measles were reported, according to NBC New York. The regulation affected certain Jewish schools in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, areas that were hit particularly hard by the outbreak.
In addition to the exclusions, Clark County Public Health wants potentially exposed patients to "make a plan" with a medical professional before visiting a health center. They said in a statement, according to ABC-affiliated television station KATU:
Clark County Public Health is urging anyone who has been exposed at an identified location and believes they have symptoms of measles to call their health care provider prior to visiting the medical office to make a plan that avoids exposing others in the waiting room. People who believe they have symptoms of measles should not go directly to medical offices, urgent care centers or emergency departments (unless experiencing a medical emergency) without calling in advance.
Although it's positive to see Clark County handling this situation seriously, it's alarming to learn that 19 out of people affected are unvaccinated. Chelsea Clinton touched on this fact in a tweet Tuesday. "19 of the 22 people with measles in Clark County were unvaccinated. In the 2017-2018 school year, only 76.5% of kindergarteners in Oregon had completed their vaccinations," she tweeted, "For perspective, 19 out of 20 (95%) people need to be vaccinated against measles for herd immunity to work."
Bottom line: Vaccinations are necessary to keep people healthy and safe. If your child doesn't have their MMR vaccination yet, consult your doctor ASAP because kids should receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine between 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose between 4 through 6 years of age, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services' website.
Furthermore, follow the CDC on social media for the latest information concerning outbreaks.