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Measles outbreak costs state ‘well over’ $1 million; 71 cases confirmed

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SHORELINE, Wash. — The largest measles outbreak in more than 20 years has cost the state “well over” $1 million, according to state officials.

Scott Lindquist, a state epidemiologist at the Department of Health, said two new suspected measles cases have been identified in an outbreak in southwest Washington.

The new cases bring the number of confirmed patients to 70 people in Clark County and one in King County. Multnomah County which is home to Portland, Oregon, has identified four people with measles and one who could have measles.

Most are young children under age 10 who were not vaccinated.

The cost of monitoring and staffing to manage the outbreak is coming from state coffers.

“We’re well over $1 million at this point for something that was completely preventable,” Lindquist said.

Prior to the measles vaccine in the mid-1960s, the state used to see about 25,000 cases of measles each year. But after the vaccine became prevalent, the number dropped to almost zero. This is the largest outbreak since the ’90s, Lindquist said.

The number of people with measles has risen over the past couple weeks, but not at the same rate as the beginning of January. Lindquist said infections come in “waves” and he believes the state is in its sixth wave. He hopes the outbreak will end soon.

“While we had a few new cases over the weekend – three new cases – I’m cautiously optimistic it’s going to start to slow down,” Lindquist said.

Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said 21 days without a new case must pass before the outbreak could be considered over.

The outbreak may have been centered in Clark County because it’s close to the Portland International Airport, Lindquist said, the likely point of entry for the infection.

More people than normal have been getting vaccinated in Washington due to the outbreak, Lindquist said.

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