VANCOUVER, Ore. (KOIN) — The U.S. surgeon general visited Clark County amid a continuing measles outbreak and delivered a clear message on how to curb the spread of the virus.
Health officials announced on Wednesday that they’re investigating 3 new possible cases of measles. The number of cases confirmed since Jan. 1 sits at 70.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams met with Clark County Public Health employees and young patients at Evergreen Pediatric Clinic.
Adams thanked health workers for the work they’ve done to try and contain the outbreak. He praised employees for the great lengths they’ve gone to in following up on more than 4,000 possible contacts, as well as working overtime for the past 51 days to track the virus.
“You hear about the 70 cases of measles but what you don’t hear about are the over 4,000 case contacts that had to be followed up on,” said Adams. “You don’t hear about the hours and hours of overtime, you don’t hear about the literally millions of dollars that are being expended to follow up on these cases.”
Adams also sat down with Oregon and Washington state health directors at Evergreen Pediatric Clinic to reaffirm his stance on vaccines.
“It’s really important that we have a respectful and a factual conversation with people so we can answer their questions and so that we can all get to a place where more people understand that vaccinations are safe and effective and we have providers and parents on board with sharing that information,” said Adams.
The surgeon general said vaccinations are important because they do more than just protect the people who receive them.
“We have a social contract that exists in our community,” Adams said. “We all have to look out for one another, and unfortunately some people can’t get vaccinated, and so it’s important that the ones that can – do, not just to protect themselves but to protect everyone else.”
Meanwhile, health officials pointed out that MMR vaccination rates in Clark County have skyrocketed since the start of the year.
“We need to make it easier to get a vaccination than it is to get an exemption.” @Surgeon_General voicing support for new legislative attempts in Washington state to cut down on non-medical exemptions. pic.twitter.com/zPer5Umnhr— Emily Burris (@emilyburrisTV) March 6, 2019
Washington State Secretary or Health Dr. John Wiesman echoed Adams in emphasizing the notion that vaccinations have community-wide effects.
“These outbreaks we’re seeing in Clark County really are preventable and when they occur it takes a whole community response with a whole lot of effort to try and control these,” said Wiesman. “‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ really applies here in this case.”
Cerisse Wilson, a mother of a 15-month-old son, said she was initially hesitant to vaccinate her child but changed her mind after researching the issue.
“Everyone just wants what’s best for their children,” said Wilson. “It eventually turned to where I had more anxiety about him not being protected by the vaccines than being fearful of what vaccines could potentially do to him.”
Measles is a highly contagious virus spread through the air. It can linger in a room up to two hours after someone with the virus has been there and you can catch it even before the sick person develops a rash.
The virus starts with a fever and can also cause a runny nose, cough, red eyes, ear infection, diarrhea and a rash of tiny red spots starting at the head and then spreading. It is especially dangerous for babies and young children.
The CDC said almost everyone who has not been vaccinated will get the virus if they are exposed.