Doctors fear that the measles epidemic will worsen, it will spread



A security guard carries the door of the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver.

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The hospital is under the health alert. Measles are spreading rapidly and officials fear the worst is yet to come.

"It's like taking a bucket of gas and throwing a lit match in. I have some concerns that it will get worse before it gets better," said Clark County Public Health Director Alan Melnick.

Melnick said there are now 25 confirmed measles cases and 12 suspected cases in Clark County. Most are children under the age of 10.

At least 21 people with the disease have never obtained the MMR vaccine. The other four cases have not been verified.

"What people do not realize about measles is how contagious it is," said Lawrence Neville, Medical Chief of PeaceHealth Southwest. "It spreads through the droplets carried by the air and that's why the air can be contagious for up to two hours after a measles-infected person is in that area."

Miranda Smith said she is frustrated by the epidemic. She has three young children.

"They are their lives at stake, honestly, if they are not vaccinated and something happens, then what will I do to save them?" He said.

Statistics from the Washington State Department of Health show that Clark County has the sixth lowest immunization rate in the state.

"I would not be surprised if we saw other cases outside of Clark County," Melnick said.

The CDC immunization recommendation is 90 percent.

Many counties in Washington are below the recommendation, including:

  • Clark County: 76 percent
  • King County: 85 percent
  • Pierce County: 88 percent
  • Thurston County: 84 percent
  • Snohomish County: 85 percent

"Most children, if they're lucky, will only have a very high fever and a rash and some diarrhea, but it can be dangerous enough to get pneumonia that can lead to admission," Neville said.

So far, a child has been admitted to the Clark County hospital with measles.

The health department said that people with symptoms of measles should call before visiting a doctor or emergency room to warn workers.

The doctors said that the best way to stop the spread of the disease is to get the vaccine.



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