Let’s Talk About Measles
November 13, 2019
On Friday, January 18, a public health emergency was declared in Clark County related to 19 confirmed measles cases in Washington State. Additionally, there are also five more suspected cases waiting on test results.
Of the 19 confirmed cases, 16 had not been vaccinated and it is unclear if the other three had been. A total of 15 children in these cases are aged 10 and under.
One of the confirmed cases attended a Portland Trailblazers game on January 11th, while other confirmed cases had traveled to Portland International Airport, Ikea, Costco, and more. If you’ve traveled to Portland anytime in the last few weeks, we recommend reviewing the comprehensive list of public exposure locations to check whether or not you could be at risk: https://www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/measles-investigation.
Measles is a virus causing a total body skin rash and flu like symptoms. Worldwide, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, with most victims being under the age of five. According to the Center for Disease Control, initial symptoms typically appear 7 to 14 days after exposure.
Initial symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (red, watery eyes). Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out over the body, usually beginning as flat red spots appearing on the face at the hairline and spreading downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.
Measles is extremely contagious. The virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person and is transmitted through tiny droplets in the air when the individual sneezes or coughs. Measles can stay in the air for up to two hours. Therefore, if someone breathes in the contaminated air, or touches a contaminated surface, and then touches their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. An infected individual can spread measles up to 4 days before their rash appears and 4 days after their rash disappears. Because of this long contagious period, it’s important to diagnose measles as soon as possible.
What do you do if you think you have symptoms?
According to their most recent press release, Clark County Public Health is urging anyone who has been exposed and believes they have symptoms of measles to immediately call their health care provider prior to visiting the medical office in order to make a plan avoiding the exposure of others in the waiting room.
Individuals believing they have symptoms of measles should not go directly to medical offices, urgent care centers, or emergency departments (unless experiencing a medical emergency) without calling in advance.
For more information and FAQ about measles, visit: www.cdc.gov/measles/about/faqs.html
Here at Willamette Valley Medical Center, we are always prepared to help anyone in need. However, if you feel that you or a loved one has been exposed to measles, please contact us prior to coming into the building. We can safely treat you, but want to limit your exposure to other patients and community members.