VANCOUVER, Wash. — A security guard mans the door of PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver.
The hospital is under a health alert. Measles is spreading fast and officials worry the worst is yet to come.
"It's like taking a pail of gasoline and throwing a lighted match into it. I have some concerns that this is going to 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. The majority are kids younger than 10.
At least 21 people with the disease never got the MMR vaccine. The other four cases are unverified.
"What people don't realize about measles is how contagious it is,” said Lawrence Neville, PeaceHealth Southwest Chief Medical Officer. "It's spread by airborne droplets and that's why the very air can be infectious for up to two hours later after someone infected with measles is in that vicinity."
Scroll down to continue reading
More news from KIRO 7
- Child with autism locked out of school
- Man with measles in King County came in contact with hundreds
- PHOTOS: Seattle Earthquakes: Photos from 1949, 1965 & 2001
- Bill seeks to outlaw dwarf-tossing at Washington bars, strip clubs
- Do you have an investigative story tip? Send us an email at email@example.com
Miranda Smith said she's frustrated by the outbreak. She has three young kids.
“It's their lives on the line, honestly. If they're not vaccinated and something like this happens, then what am I going to do to save them?" she said.
Washington State Department of Health statistics show Clark County has the sixth lowest immunization rate in the state.
"I'd hardly be surprised if we see more cases that are outside of Clark County,” Melnick said.
The CDC’s immunization recommendation is 90 percent.
Many counties in Washington fall 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 kids, if they're lucky, will get just a very high fever and a rash and some diarrhea, but it can be dangerous enough that you get pneumonia that can lead to hospitalization,” Neville said.
So far, one child has been hospitalized in Clark County with the measles.
The health department said people with measles symptoms should call before visiting a doctor or emergency room to warn workers.
© 2020 Cox Media Group