Approximately 500 people potentially exposed
Multnomah (OR) County officials sent shockwaves through their local healthcare community last week when they confirmed a case of measles in the metro Portland area.
More alarming, however, than the confirmed case was the approximately 500 people who may have been exposed to the condition. Of those potentially exposed, about 40 are considered non-immune and thus are being closely monitored by the Multnomah County Health Department Communicable Disease Services team.
As of today, officials have confirmed three total cases and now fear the possibility that the case may have spread into Washington state and perhaps as far as Vancouver, Washington.
As best as officials can tell, the latest exposure occurred when someone with the virus entered a child care center in Gresham, OR last week. Since symptoms often take days or weeks to emerge, it’s anyone’s guess if the people inside the child care center were subsequently exposed—or where they traveled following the potential exposure.
Likewise, officials in Clark County, Washington are warning anyone who may have visited a JC Penney in Vancouver on June 27 or a Ross Dress for Less on June 28 that they may have been exposed to the disease.
Of course, many people’s fears will be greatly reduced thanks to the measles vaccine, which is typically given in two doses. MMR vaccines prevents not only measles, but mumps and rubella as well. It is recommended that children receive the first dose between 12–15 months of age, and receive the second dose between 4–6 years of age.
According to one doctor interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting, one dose of MMR vaccines is considered 93 percent effective in preventing measles, while receiving both doses increases the rate of effectiveness to 97 percent.
Most frightening to Clark County officials, therefore, is that one potential case of measles was found in a child who is up to date on vaccinations. Nothing is 100 percent effective, after all.
“Measles symptoms generally appear seven to 21 days after a person is exposed,” said Dr. Rachel Wood. “So we will be keeping an eye out for at least 21 days after the end of the contagious period for this child.”
A highly contagious and potentially serious disease, measles is spread through the air when a person with the conditions coughs or sneezes. A person can spread the disease before or during showing symptoms, and the virus itself can linger in the air for a undetermined period of time.
There are four groups of people who are considered to be at highest risk when exposed to measles:
- People who have not been vaccinated
- Pregnant women
- Infants younger than 12 months
- People with weakened immune systems
Conversely, there are certain groups who can feel particular confidence in their own immunity:
- Persons born before 1957
- Those who are certain they’ve had measles
- Those who are up to date on measles vaccines
Chances are every single person reading this article, and every single person you’ll encounter, fits into at least one of those groups—underscoring the point that nothing is ever 100 percent effective or has no exceptions at all. Thus, people are cautioned to be on the lookout and seek immediate medical assistance if they show any symptoms of measles, including fever, cough, with a runny nose and a bright red rash that starts at the head and eventually spreads to other parts of the body.
The rash typically appears a little later than the earlier mentioned symptoms. People are generally considered contagious for four days before the rash appears and for up to four days after the rash disappears.
Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States. Of these, approximately 500,000 cases were reported each year to CDC; of these, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 developed encephalitis (brain swelling) from measles.
Since then, widespread use of measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99 percent reduction in measles cases compared with the pre-vaccine era. However, measles is still common in other countries. These days, cases or outbreaks of measles are most often traced back to a person who traveled outside the United States, was exposed to the disease and then returned home during the contagious period.