CLARK COUNTY, Wash. — Since the beginning of the year, Clark County Public Health officials have confirmed dozens of cases of the measles virus, and several other suspected cases, mostly involving children.
Understandably, many Clark County residents are worried about the spread of this virus, so we Verified several "fast facts" with the help of Dr. Alan Melnick, a health officer for Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties in Washington.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. The vaccine is safe to get. There are medical reasons not to get it -- for example, if you're pregnant. In general, it's a vaccine all children should have.
If you are not immunized, you can still get treated with two shots 28 days apart. The first shot is 93 percent effective, and the second is 97 percent effective.
If you are exposed to the virus and you have not been immunized, you need to be out of work or school for 1-3 weeks from the last date of exposure.
How does measles spread?
It is spread through the air when a person with measles coughs or sneezes.
If I think I have it, should I go directly to a doctor?
No! You need to call your health provider, a hospital or your doctor first. Going to an emergency room, hospital or urgent care could infect everyone there.
Is there a treatment for the measles?
No, there is no treatment or prescription drug to treat the virus. It starts as a runny nose, cough or pink eye, and eventually develops into a rash. Keep in mind, you are still contagious before the rash. The illness could last up to 3 weeks.
Is it deadly?
Yes, the measles virus can be deadly. Dr. Melnick said it has a death rate of about 1-3 people per 1,000. That may not sound too scary, but Dr. Melnick says that number is concerning.
"That’s as if we had two jumbo plane crashes every year in the United States. If we had something like that, I don't think we'd have people saying it's no big deal,” Dr. Melnick said.
Bottom line: it's a serious disease. And no, your child won't get Autism if they're vaccinated.
Dr. Melnick said the majority of exemptions to vaccines he sees are not related to religious or medical reasons - they're "philosophical or personal."
"This is keeping me up at night because we're not at the end of this and I don't know how many cases we're going to have," Dr. Melnick said.