Northwest NEWS

February 12, 2001


Public Health issues update on measles outbreak

KING COUNTY - Two additional confirmed cases of measles (rubeola) were confirmed last week, bringing the total number of reported King County cases since the beginning of the year to four. In addition to the two new confirmed cases, one suspected case has been reported.
   Extensive community exposure from these case has occurred. If you are immune to measles, either because you had measles, or have been properly vaccinated against it, you can not get measles if you are exposed. People who lack immunity, otherwise known as being susceptible, can get measles if they are exposed to measles.
   Measles is a highly infectious disease with potentially serious consequences, but if caught early its symptoms are easily treated. Although the vast majority of the population is already vaccinated against measles, there are some individuals who have not been vaccinated, and they are the ones vulnerable to infection.
   What is it? Measles is one of the most easily spread infections and is a serious disease. It is caused by the measles virus.
   Symptoms: The illness starts with a runny nose, watery eyes, cough, and high fever. After 2 or 3 days, tiny white spots, appear in the mouth. After 2 more days, a raised, red rash starts on the face and spreads down the body and out to the arms and legs. The rash usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Symptoms start about 10 days after exposure and last from 1 to 2 weeks. It is contagious for 1 week before and 1 week after the rash begins.
   Potential complications: Measles is sometimes complicated by ear infections, pneumonia, or encephalitis (inflammations of the brain) which can lead to convulsions, deafness, or mental retardation. Measles can cause miscarriages or premature delivery in pregnant women.
   How is it spread? It is spread by: infected droplets during sneezing or coughing. Contaminated objects. Direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected persons.
   Who is at risk? Infants who are too young to have been immunized (less than 1 year of age).
   Persons who received immune globulin around the same time as when they were vaccinated against measles. Persons who were vaccinated with an inactivated vaccine (available from 1963-1967) and have not been revaccinated. Those who refused vaccinations. People born before 1957 are generally considered immune because they probably had the disease.
   Fortunately, the vast majority of the population is already vaccinated against measles. However, there are some individuals who have not been vaccinated, and they are the ones vulnerable to infection.
   When people are immunized against measles today, they are given measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. The following points will help you decide whether now is the time for a measles immunization:
   If you were born prior to 1957, you probably had measles as a child, and you are immune for life. You are not likely to need a measles vaccination.
   If your were born in 1957, or later, you are more dependent on measles vaccination for your protection against measles.
   Adults should check their immunization record and make sure that their measles vaccination was given in 1968 or later. In addition the measles vaccination should have been given when the person was at least 1 year of age.
   Children born since the early 1990's are now receiving 2 doses of MMR vaccine. The first dose is given at 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose is given at either entry into school or entry into 6th grade.
   In school outbreaks, a second dose of measles vaccine is given to all students who have not yet received a second measles vaccination dose in order to control the outbreak.
   Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccinations are available at most health care providers' offices or at Public Health clinics.
   In response to this measles outbreak, Public Health has performed the following activities:
   Identifying people who were exposed, verifying their measles immunity, and offering vaccination to susceptible people as appropriate;
   Searching for additional measles cases;
   Increasing awareness among the public, health care providers, schools, and laboratories of the presence of measles;
   Coordinating measles outbreak activities with Pierce County, state officials, and Oregon health authorities.
   For more information on measles, and measles vaccination recommendations, access the Web site at