PORTLAND, Ore.—Measles was confirmed in three more Multnomah County residents Wednesday, but officials say they pose no risk to the public. Track Oregon’s cases here.
The individuals were in close contact with a Multnomah County resident who tested positive for measles Jan. 25. The individuals have remained at home and in regular contact with the Multnomah County Communicable Disease Services team.
Health officials have worked with the individuals to track progression of their symptoms, which typically include a cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by fever and, eventually, a rash that begins around the hairline and spreads to the rest of the body.
The county’s Communicable Disease Services team checks daily on affected individuals – who have been asked to stay home while experiencing symptoms to avoid spreading the virus – to check on their illness and see if they need medical care. If an individual needs to see a health care provider, officials help them develop a plan to get care without exposing other people.
Health officials also help people find ways to continue their daily routines without creating new exposures. That can include attending church via video feed, helping employers understand why an employee needs time away from work and making sure kids stay caught up with homework.
“These individuals did everything right,” said Jennifer Vines, M.D., Multnomah County deputy health officer. “They stayed away from others while on symptom watch so we have no new public exposures to measles.”
The first Multnomah County resident who tested positive Jan. 25 was in contact with someone from Clark County, Wash., who was contagious with measles. These cases are part of a larger outbreak in Clark County, where health officials are investigating 49 cases of measles, with one additional case in King County, Wash.
The threat of measles appears to have increased interest in vaccination; in the last week of January, the number of measles vaccines given out in the Tri-County area (Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington counties) tripled compared with the same time last year, from 200 per day in January 2018 to 600 per day in 2019.
“This outbreak has put people at real risk,” said Ann Thomas, public health physician at the Oregon Health Authority. “It has also raised an awareness that measles could easily make a comeback, and the only way to prevent that is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”
Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes. People are contagious with measles for four days before the rash appears and up to four days after the rash appears. The virus can also linger in the air for up to two hours after someone who is infectious has left.
Measles poses the highest risk to unvaccinated pregnant women, infants under 12 months of age, and people with weakened immune systems.
After someone contracts measles, illness develops in about two weeks, but people can be contagious days before they know they’re sick.
The symptoms of measles start with a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a rash that usually begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Common complications of measles include ear infection, lung infection, and diarrhea. Swelling of the brain is a rare but much more serious complication.
A person is considered immune to measles if any of the following apply:
- You were born before 1957.
- A physician diagnosed you with measles in the past.
- A blood test proves that you are immune.
- You have been fully vaccinated against measles (one dose for children 12 months through 3 years old, two doses in anyone 4 years and older).