Officials at the Spokane Regional Health District confirmed a case of measles by laboratory testing for the first time in over two decades in the Spokane, Washington, area. According to Spokane health officials, the infected person is an adult who was not compliant with measles vaccine suggestions. The announcement comes, ironically, after a massive vaccine push in the wake of this winter’s measles outbreak that began at a California amusement park. Health officials aren’t sure where the individual contracted the measles virus. The patient had no recent travel history and no known contact with anyone exhibiting measles-like symptoms.
The patient’s diagnosis was confirmed just after the Spokane Regional Health District’s Immunization Outreach program held its “Free Childhood Vaccination Clinic Blitz,” which featured a vaccination clinic run by Spokane Public School’s nurses at a different Spokane high school each day. It followed several weeks of free vaccination clinics offered to students of all ages in the district.
Several free vaccination clinics are being offered this spring to children ages 2-18 who live in the Spokane area. http://t.co/Zd1xznn3GZ
— Spokane Schools (@spokaneschools) March 2, 2015
Spokane Public School’s Kevin Morrison announced just before the new patient was diagnosed with measles that the public school district would likely pull over 900 students in the district for being non-compliant with Washington State’s vaccine law, according to KREM News. The 900 students made up about 3 percent of the student body. Morrison said that the number of students not compliant was previously much higher, which prompted the district to spend the last several weeks urging parents to vaccinate their children.
“Three percent is a fairly reasonable amount of non-compliant students,” said Morrison. “After the recent measles outbreak, we decided to check compliance rates across the district. We saw the percentage of non-compliant students was higher than we would like and thought we could get it lower and decided to take action to bring the rate closer to three percent.”
The parents received phone calls, emails, and letters. After the Spokane Public Schools spent eight weeks on the vaccination campaign, offering free vaccinations and communicating with parents, the district officials managed to hit their goal and bring the non-compliance number down to just 900 students. After threatening to remove the students from school, the district hit a remarkably low number as of Tuesday. On March 1, there were 2,500 students out of compliance with Washington’s vaccine law. Tuesday, that number was 124.
— Spokane Schools (@spokaneschools) April 22, 2015
This isn’t the first time Spokane made the news over this topic. In February, Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan found himself in the middle of a heated debate when he publicly announced on his Facebook page that he believed there were safety and efficacy concerns with vaccination. The Spokane City Council asked Fagan to resign, given that he represents the city of Spokane on the Spokane County Board of Health and the country was in the middle of a vaccine push amidst the measles outbreak that began in California.
[Photo credit: CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald]