Measles outbreak has cost Oakland County at least $200K

A measles vaccination
India Ampah holds her son, Keon Lockhart, 12 months old, as pediatrician Amanda Porro M.D. administers a measles vaccination during a visit to the Miami Children's Hospital on June 02, 2014 in Miami, Florida. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The response to this year’s measles outbreak, Michigan’s worst since 1991, has cost Oakland County at least $200,000 according to health officials.

Speaking before the state House Health Policy Committee Thursday morning, Oakland County Medical Director Dr. Russell Faust said that “conservative estimate” included the cost of around-the-clock staff response to potential cases or exposures, expanded media availability, a flood of inquiries to the county’s nurse on call, developing public guidance documents, and giving a vastly increased amount of vaccinations.

Dr. Russel Faust

The Oakland County Health Division did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The Southeast Michigan county has seen 40 of the 43 cases reported this year. The outbreak began in March when a traveler brought the disease to Michigan from Israel by way of New York City.

In today’s hearing the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director of Immunization Bob Swanson said the outbreak could potentially have been much worse if not for the state’s and county’s rapid response.

Swanson theorized to the committee that “If one case caused 21 more exposures, with 21 more we could come up with 400-plus [cases], and where does that lead?”

He also noted that the outbreak isn’t only part of a national trend, but an international one, with cases of measles tripling in Europe from 2017 to 2018. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 82 people brought measles to the United States from elsewhere in 2018. The country, as a whole, has seen 695 confirmed cases as of April 24.

Baby with measles | Dave Haygarth, Flickr

Swanson said the department is optimistic that the outbreak is coming to a close, however, with only three recent confirmed cases, the last on April 17.

DHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin told the Advance that the department has “definitely seen cases slow down, and that’s what we’re hoping for … it’s a it’s been a week since we’ve had a case confirmed, but we know we’re not quite out of the woods.”

She added that despite the downturn in confirmed cases, the state is still technically experiencing an outbreak and should take necessary precautions.

“It’s always good health policy to make sure you’re aware of your immunization status and up to date on all vaccines, whether it’s during an outbreak or not,” Sutfin said. “But during outbreak, it becomes much more important.”

Swanson told the Health Policy Committee that DHHS has not yet calculated the total cost of the measles outbreak to the state overall.

Vials of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine are displayed on a counter at a Walgreens Pharmacy on January 26, 2015 | Photo by Illustration Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Members of anti-vaccination group Michigan for Vaccine Choice were present at Thursday’s hearing, but they did not testify.

State Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) asked the panel what percentage of the population benefits from herd immunity, or the broader resistance to a disease that develops when most of its members are immune. Swanson was unequivocal.

“From my perspective, 100 percent,” Swanson said. “The more people we get vaccinated, the more protected the community as a whole is.”

Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson is a former associate editor of the Advance and is now a freelance writer in Chicago. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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