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Measles outbreaks are fast and devastating. Immunize your family.

Washington State is experiencing a large measles outbreak. Public health officials in Clark County have confirmed 23 cases of measles in the Vancouver area and suspect seven more. On Wednesday, King County officials said a man had contracted and recovered from measles but exposed others when he was contagious.

Measles spreads quickly, so those numbers could grow significantly. Clark County’s public health emergency helps explain why vaccination is so important.

A paper published last year in the Public Library of Science named the areas around Portland and Seattle as “hotspot metropolitan areas” last year. These are areas with dangerous numbers of people who aren’t vaccinated. Nearly eight percent of kids in Clark County were exempt last year from the vaccines they needed to start kindergarten.

We don’t have a case in Pierce County, but we’re just as vulnerable to a measles outbreak. About eight percent of kids starting kindergarten here haven’t been vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella.

Child with measles

A 95 percent vaccination rate is the magic number a community needs to reach to prevent an outbreak. Once we reach that, a thing called “community immunity” kicks in and outbreaks become far less likely.

Because we’re below that number and have measles to our north and south, we’re very worried.

If we get an outbreak here, it could spread quickly and have devastating effects:

  • Measles is highly contagious. If one person has it, nine out of 10 people around them will also get measles if they aren’t immunized.
  • You can spread measles long before you know you have it. People can pass on measles for four days before their first symptom.
  • Many people ignore the early symptoms because they usually resemble a cold for the first few days.
  • Young children are hurt the most by this disease. They can get so sick they may need hospitalization.

That’s why it’s so important to keep measles out of Pierce County.

We at the Health Department are doing everything we can to keep you safe. We activated our emergency-response team this week:

  • One of our Registered Nurses is in Clark County helping with the disease investigation.
  • We advised school administrators to check their records and let parents of unimmunized students know: if there’s an outbreak here, the Health Officer will exclude unimmunized students from school attendance.
  • We are advising healthcare providers what to do when they get calls from people who think they have measles.
  • We’re reminding you to check vaccination status for you and your family. The time to get vaccinated is now.
  • We’re spreading the word on what to look for. If you think you have measles, call your healthcare provider before going anywhere. They need to make arrangements to prevent possibly spreading the disease.
  • We’re keeping a close eye on King County to see if any more cases are reported.

You can do your part as well. Free vaccines are available for kids, and adults without insurance can get them for a low cost.

Make sure you and your family are immunized. If you know somebody who isn’t, ask them to reconsider.

Everybody’s health is at stake.

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