Measles was confirmed in three more Multnomah County residents

February 6, 2019

Measles was confirmed in three more Multnomah County residents Wednesday, but officials say they pose no risk to the public. [Track Multnomah County cases here]

The individuals were in close contact with a Multnomah County resident who tested positive for measles Jan. 25. Once they were identified, the individuals stayed home and in regular contact with Multnomah County Communicable Disease Services.

Health officials worked closely with the individuals to track the progression of symptoms, which typically begin with a cough, runny nose, red eyes and fever, followed by a rash that begins around the hairline and spreads to the rest of the body.  

When people have to stay home for many days to avoid spreading the virus, the county’s Communicable Disease Services team checks daily to see how they are feeling and whether they need medical care. If an individual needs medical attention, staff help them develop a plan to get care without exposing other people.

Staff also help people find ways to continue their daily routines without creating new exposures. That can include ways to attend 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 Dr. Jennifer Vines, deputy health officer for Multnomah County. “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. The three new cases are part of an on-going larger outbreak focused in Clark County, where health officials have identified 50 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 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 Dr. Ann Thomas, public health physician at the Oregon Health Authority. “It has also raised awareness that measles could easily make a come back, and the only way to prevent that is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

About Measles

Measles is a highly contagious virus that causes fever, body-aches, congestion, cough and red eyes followed by a whole body rash two to four days later. Measles frequently causes diarrhea, ear infection and pneumonia; in recent years, approximately 30 percent of Oregon cases required hospitalization. Less frequent but feared complications include eye damage, blindness, pneumonia, brain infection and death.

After someone contracts measles, illness usually develops 7 to 21 days later.

Measles 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.

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 over 12 months and most healthy adults; two doses for children in K-12).