Preventing, tracking, and responding to costly food or water contamination and disease outbreaks is essential to protecting the public’s health, and a fundamental function of local health jurisdictions.  In western Washington, we are currently experiencing a large measles outbreak.

Preventing, tracking, and responding to costly food or water contamination and disease outbreaks is essential to protecting the public’s health, and a fundamental function of local health jurisdictions.  In western Washington, we are currently experiencing a large measles outbreak.

Measles is highly contagious and can be serious, especially for young children. Measles is easily spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes.   Measles is also a vaccine-preventable disease, and the vaccine has been shown to be highly effective at preventing infection. Nearly, everyone who has not had the vaccine will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.

This outbreak highlights the importance of a strong public health system that has the capacity to respond to large scale events as well as promote public health through prevention efforts through the foundational public health services.

The investigation, control, and prevention of communicable disease outbreak such as measles is a great example of foundational public health services.  Local health jurisdictions are the boots on the ground responders; investigating suspect cases, contacting people at risk for developing the disease, coordinating testing and treatment with the state and hospitals, working with exposure sites such as schools, churches, and businesses, and educating the public.

Our need for stable and reliable public health funding has never been greater.

“The number of measles cases and exposure sites keeps growing. Our team is working around the clock, pulling resources from state and regional partners, but this could last for months. We just haven’t had the staff needed to increase our county’s low vaccination rates over the years and now our communities are paying the price. The thing that keeps me up at night is the possibility that we could lose a child to this disease or have a serious complication from it.” – Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health Director, and Health Officer.

This week, the Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS) bill was filed in the house.  HB 1497, sponsored by Representative Robinson has bi-partisan support and would establish the FPHS framework in Washington, including local and state concurrence on funding and policy decisions on FPHS.  In addition to the policy bill, WSAC is one of many organizations that is supporting a $100 million funding request to invest in FPHS across the state.  This funding request would help fill critical gaps in communicable disease control.

To stay up to date on the measles outbreak in Western Washington, please visit;
1. Clark County: https://www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/measles-investigation
2. King County: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/news/2019/January/23-measles.aspx
3. Washington State Department of Health: https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Measles/MeaslesOutbreak

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Jaime Bodden

Jaime Bodden is the Managing Director for WSALPHO. Previously, Jaime managed and oversaw the operations of a small health department as Health Officer/Director. Additionally, Jaime has experience in community engagement, health promotion, global health, and health policy. She holds Master degrees in Social Work and Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis.
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