The measles virus Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The measles virus Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Report: Clallam’s measles outbreak price tag comes in at $223,223

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County’s deadly outbreak of measles in February and March cost taxpayers and businesses $223,223, according to a Clallam County Health and Human Services report.

The report, issued last week at a Clallam County Board of Health meeting, broke down the cost of the outbreak by agency.

According to the report, Clallam County bore $104,105 of the cost.

“Two people, for $40 each, could have prevented $104,000 in expenses,” Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach said.

Olympic Medical Center had $36,000 in expenses, while the outbreak cost the state Department of Health $18,918 and the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga., $33,200.

An additional $31,000 cost was spread among schools and clinics affected by the outbreak.

One health care workplace lost $23,000 because half of its employees were quarantined after being exposed to one of the infected patients, said Dr. Jeanette Stehr-Green, interim Clallam County Health Officer.

Bryon Monohon, Board of Health member and mayor of Forks, expressed frustration about the lack of good information available to families on making decisions on vaccinations.

“The [Internet] is filled with misinformation,” Monohon said.

According to the state Department of Health, children should be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, with the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at four-to-six years.

Adults born after 1956 should have at least one measles vaccination, though two doses may be necessary for maximum immunity.

Stehr-Green said the vaccine is typically covered by insurance, including Medicaid, and can be purchased in a private clinic or pharmacy for about $40.

None of the five people initially diagnosed with measles in Clallam County in February and March had confirmed vaccinations prior to catching the illness, with the exception of the last case diagnosed March 4 in a man who had received a vaccine that hadn’t been administered in 44 years.

Those five cases included Clallam’s first confirmed case of measles in 20 years, a 52-year-old man who was diagnosed Feb. 1; a 5-year-old girl attending Olympic Christian School, who was diagnosed after she was exposed to the first case in a medical clinic; a 43-year-old man diagnosed Feb. 18, a friend of the 52-year-old man; a 14-year-old boy — the brother of the 5-year-old girl — who was diagnosed Feb. 19; and the adult male with a diagnosis March 4.

Each of the initial cases recovered from the illness.

A sixth case — a young Clallam County woman whose immune system was suppressed due to a medication she was taking — died at a hospital in Seattle.

It was the first confirmed measles death in the U.S. since 2003.

“We were startled. She was never on our radar. She never had any [traditional measles] symptoms,” Stehr-Green said.

She said the unidentified woman’s death was initially thought to be caused by pneumonia, and the underlying cause — measles — was only identified due to a routine autopsy performed by the University of Washington Medical Center.

“This incident was a tragedy of epic proportions. This was a preventable death,” she said.

The woman was one of a total of 257 people known to be exposed to the five known diagnosed cases, said Iva Burks, Clallam County Health and Human Services director.

It was only due to luck that the infected people were already “contained” when their illness emerged, and the aggressive response to the small outbreak prevented measles from potentially reaching thousands, Burks said.

“We’re extremely lucky that’s all there were,” she said.

________

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arice@peninsuladailynews.com.

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