According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an outbreak of measles starts at just four cases.
Multnomah County says while every year is different, four would be high for any county in the area.
“A case here, a couple cases there, some years with no cases, and now to be talking about 30 spread across the border and into other counties,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines of the Multnomah County Health Department.
But what makes an outbreak different? Vines says because it’s unexpected, unlike the flu virus.
“Flu season is a predictable spike that we get every year. We have a flu vaccine you have to get every year,” Vines said.
The numbers in Clark County, though, continue to rise. It’s now 36 confirmed measles cases and 12 suspected.
“For this area, this is a high number,” Vines said.
Only one case has been identified in Multnomah County. Vines says they have been preparing for a possibility of an outbreak.
But why have they been preparing? Vines says it’s because vaccination rates have been down.
“We have seen the number of parents delaying or denying vaccines going up in recent years, and so in addition, we have had to prepare for outbreak response and we are using those tools now,” she said.
What is an outbreak? How serious is this and can we stop it?