Frequently Asked Questions About Measles and the Outbreak in Clark County, Washington and Multnomah County
Measles FAQ February 12, 2019
What’s going on in Oregon?
Clark County, Washington is experiencing an outbreak of measles, with 53 confirmed cases to date. As of February 12, 2019, there are three newly diagnosed cases of measles in Multnomah County, bringing the total number of cases in Oregon to four. There are NO cases of measles in Jackson County at this time.
Jackson County Public Health continues to monitor the outbreak in Clark County and the situation in Multnomah County. Jackson County Health Officer, Dr. Jim Shames, states that if there is a confirmed case of measles in Jackson County, the Public Health Department will alert the public and community partners.
Jackson County Public Health is recommending that now is a great time for all families to take action by reviewing their vaccination records and be sure that everyone is up to date and has completed the vaccination series for measles.
Find a complete list of all Oregon public exposures here: http://healthoregon.org/measles.
To follow the Clark County Public Health Investigation visit: https://www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/measles-investigation.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious and potentially serious illness caused by a virus. Measles starts with a fever (101° F or higher), runny nose, cough, red eyes, and a sore throat. It’s followed by a rash that spreads over the body. After someone is exposed, illness usually develops in about 2 weeks, it can develop anywhere from 7 to 21 days after exposure. The measles virus is spread through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes.
How serious is measles?
Measles can be serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years and adults older than 20 years are more likely to suffer from measles complications. Common complications of measles include ear infection, pneumonia and diarrhea. As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children. About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability. Measles may cause pregnant women to give birth prematurely or to have a low-birth-weight baby.
In 2017, there were 110,000 measles deaths worldwide, mostly among children younger than 5, according to the World Health Organization.
Who is at highest risk for measles?
Because most people in our area have been vaccinated against measles, the risk to the general public is low. Measles poses the highest risk to people who have not been vaccinated, to pregnant women, infants under 12 months and people with weakened immune systems. Any of the following constitute presumptive evidence of immunity to measles:
- Birth before 1957
- Documentation of age-appropriate vaccination* with live measles-containing vaccine
- History of laboratory-confirmed measles
- Laboratory (serologic) evidence of immunity.
*preschool-aged children: 1 dose; school (K–12)-aged children: 2 doses; adults in post-high school educational institutions, health-care personnel, and international travelers: 2 doses; other adults: 1 dose.
What should I do if I think I have measles?
Call your healthcare provider by telephone if you are concerned about your symptoms. Anyone who has been exposed and believes they have symptoms of measles should call their health care provider before visiting the medical office. This will enable the clinic to develop a plan for providing care without exposing others at the clinic.
Those who may be infected should avoid public spaces and, in particular, should stay away from settings where there are susceptible people (schools or childcare) until your doctor says it’s okay to return.
How is measles treated?
There is no specific treatment for measles.
How can I prevent measles?
Immunization is the best prevention for measles. The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose of the measles vaccine is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles. Two doses are about 97 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How common is measles?
While measles is rare in the United States, it is still commonly transmitted elsewhere in the world. In 2018, there were 349 confirmed cases of measles in people from 26 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Measles immunization resulted in an 80 percent decrease in measles deaths worldwide between 2000 and 2017 (from 545,000 deaths in 2000 to 110,000 deaths in 2017), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). During that timeframe, measles immunization prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths, according to WHO.
Before the measles vaccination program began in the U.S. in 1963, about 3 to 4 million people in the U.S. got measles every year. Of those, 400 to 500 people died and 48,000 were hospitalized, according to the CDC.
The number of Oregon cases annually has ranged from 0 to 5 cases/year since 2014. In 2018, Oregon had 5 measles cases.
Where can I learn more about measles?
Anyone with questions about measles infection or the measles vaccine should call their primary care provider or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/measles