Washington has seen 12 confirmed cases of measles this year, including possible exposures in Pierce County, according to state and county health departments. This represents more than a 50 percent increase to date, when compared to average years. Contracting measles is uncommon due to vaccinations against it, but the virus is highly contagious and dangerous to those who are infected by it.
The highest risk groups for contracting measles include infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and anyone unvaccinated. Those who are vaccinated have less than one percent chance of contracting it and people who have had it once before, develop immunities which prevent them from catching it a second time. The virus is airborne and can be caught by being in the same area as someone who is contagious.
Symptoms evolve seven to 21 days from exposure and include fever, cough and a runny nose. A red, spotted rash appears on the face approximately three days after onset and spreads down the body. Those infected by measles are contagious about four days before the rash appears and remain so until four days after.
Approximately 30 percent of measles patients worldwide experience complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The virus runs its course for about seven to 10 days and severe complications include ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, seizures, hearing loss and brain damage. Medical care includes rest, increased fluids and treatment of symptom complications.
Routine childhood vaccinations have nearly eradicated the disease within US populations, but it is still present and when it does infect a person, there is no cure. People with suspected cases should avoid public places and be evaluated by a healthcare provider right away.
“We want the public to be aware that measles is around and the very best way of protecting yourself against that is vaccination; measles hasn’t gone away,” said Nigel Turner, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department communicable disease division director.
Pierce County potential exposure locations included Celebrity Cake Studio, LeMay Car Museum and Harmon Brewing Co. and Eatery between the hours of 2:30 and 9:30 p.m. on March 29. A full list of times and locations in Pierce, King, Kitsap, San Juan and Whatcom counties is available online at the state’s Department of Health website.
In some cases, unvaccinated individuals exposed to measles can receive vaccines up to three days later to reduce risk of infection.
For more information on measles or how to obtain vaccines, please visit the Washington State Department of Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control online.