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January 24, 2019

Measles outbreak expands; unimmunized individuals cautioned to avoid travel

As of Wednesday, Jan. 23, a measles outbreak in Clark County continues to expand, with 23 confirmed cases. One case has been identified in King County.

Though there are currently no cases in Skagit County, Skagit County Public Health officials warn residents that measles is highly contagious and can easily spread. Unvaccinated individuals are at high risk for getting the disease and spreading it further. If you had measles as a child, you are considered immune.

The measles virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after a contagious person has left the room. Public Health advises that people who are unimmunized should avoid travel to the affected areas in King County, Clark County, or in Portland, Oregon. For the list of affected locations in Clark County, please see their investigation website: www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/measles-investigation#expand. For affected locations in King County, please visit: https://publichealthinsider.com/2019/01/23/measles-investigation-in-king-county/.

Measles causes a rash and a fever, and is a serious disease, particularly for babies, young children and pregnant women. It can cause swelling of the brain and lung infections and, in rare cases, can be deadly. Measles can be easily spread to others once symptoms appear; people are contagious until the rash goes away. It can be spread through coughing, sneezing and simply exhaling. 

Call your doctor or clinic right away if you see these symptoms: 

  • high fever,
  • cough,
  • runny nose,
  • red, watery eyes,
  • after 3-5 days, a rash usually begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.

It is extremely important to tell your doctor or clinic that you have symptoms of measles before you arrive at a health care facility. They will give you instructions for what to do so that you don’t spread the disease.

The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, or MMR, is the best way to protect yourself and your family.  It is a safe and very effective injection. Most children do not have any side effects from the shot.  When they occur, the side effects are usually mild and do not last long.  These side effects may include:

  • fever,
  • mild rash,
  • soreness at injection site

Review your family’s vaccination records and ask your doctor if you have questions about measles or the MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR is 97 percent effective against measles. Skagit County has no current cases of measles – and only you can help it stay that way.

For more information about measles, please contact Skagit County Public Health at 360-416-1500 or visit the CDC’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/faqs.html