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April 4, 2020

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Clark County up to 36 confirmed measles cases

Clark County Public Health confirmed one new measles case and one new exposure site Tuesday

By , Columbian staff writer

Clark County Public Health has confirmed 36 measles cases since Jan. 1 in its ongoing outbreak investigation. There have been cases confirmed in King County and Multnomah County, Ore., and possible exposure sites are being investigated in Deschutes County in Oregon.

As of Tuesday, Public Health had also identified 12 suspected cases and one new local exposure site: Word of Grace Bible Church, 1317 N.W. 12th Ave., Battle Ground, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 20.

For a complete list of previous exposure sites, click here.

Twenty-five of the Clark County cases are between the ages of 1 and 10; 10 are between 11 and 18; and one case is between 19 and 29. Of the 36 confirmed cases, 32 are people who were not immunized and four are unverified.

The outbreak has cost the county more than $207,000 in supplies, wages, salaries and benefits, Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said Tuesday.

Deschutes County Health Services reported Monday that there was a possible measles exposure in Bend, Ore., during a recent weekend.

Public health officials in Hawaii recently learned that two unvaccinated children with confirmed cases of measles traveled to Hawaii from Washington, according to Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist for Hawaii. The Associated Press reported that public health officials went to see the family and advised them to remain in the home where they were staying on the Big Island, unless they could show proof of vaccination.

Melnick would not comment on the Hawaii situation but said that if someone was unvaccinated and exposed to measles, it can be difficult to restrict that person’s travel if they travel before the end of the incubation period.

He explained in that scenario, Clark County Public Health would coordinate with health officials in the jurisdiction where the exposed person traveled to, and the person would receive the same kind of monitoring they would get in Clark County. Melnick also said that someone displaying symptoms of measles can’t travel commercially.

On Tuesday, some media outlets reported that a Vancouver church was where the measles outbreak likely started. Melnick said the timeline offered in those reports doesn’t match up with the first confirmed case Public Health reported from Dec. 31, saying of the reports, “I don’t know how they determined that.”

“Our effort is not to try to figure out who the first case is,” Melnick said. “It’s trying to figure out how to control the outbreak.”

Gov. Jay Inslee’s state of emergency declaration made last week could lead to local immunization clinics being able to give out free vaccinations, Melnick said, and those clinics could later submit their costs to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for possible reimbursement.

“We don’t want to have any barriers to giving the immunization,” Melnick said.

He’s hopeful the outbreak will lead to increased vaccination rates in the future, he said, but added it’s sad it came to this.

“This is a lousy way to make a change,” he said.

What to do if you might be infected

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed to the measles virus come down with the disease. The virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person, and can survive for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.

Health officials are 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.

If you are unsure of your family’s immunization status, you can view, download and print your family’s immunization information online at or request a copy of your immunization record from the Washington State Department of Health.

Anyone with questions about measles infection or the measles vaccine should call their primary care provider or a county health department:

  • Clark County Public Health, 360-397-8021.
  • Multnomah County, Ore., Public Health, 503-988-3406.
  • Washington County, Ore., Public Health, 503-846-3594.
  • Clackamas County, Ore., Public Health, 503-655-8411.

Clark County Public Health has been regularly updating its list of locations where people may have been exposed to measles. There are dozens of locations in total, including hospitals, Portland International Airport and multiple schools.

Public Health has established a call center for questions related to the investigation. Anyone who has questions about public exposures should call 360-397-8021. The call center is open daily.

For a complete list of exposure sites, visit the Public Health measles investigation webpage at

Measles symptoms begin with a high fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a rash that usually begins at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. A person can spread the virus before they show symptoms.

People are contagious with measles for up to four days before and up to four days after the rash appears. After someone is exposed to measles, illness develops in about one to three weeks.