Measles diagnosed in local child who traveled overseas

April 18, 2014

Local health officials have learned of a case of measles in an unimmunized infant who recently visited overseas. The child passed briefly through the Portland International Airport on Monday evening, March 24, 2014 and was subsequently diagnosed at a local primary care clinic.  Measles is a highly contagious and potentially serious illness caused by a virus. It is spread through the air after a person who is sick with measles coughs or sneezes.

Because most people in our area have been vaccinated against measles, the risk to the general public and anyone exposed at the airport is low. 

The Multnomah County Health Department is working directly with the child’s primary care clinic to make sure patients are notified of the exposure and receive the appropriate follow up if they are not already immune to measles. 

“Measles is a serious disease that was eliminated from circulation in the United States thanks to routine childhood vaccination,’’ said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Deputy Health Officer for Multnomah County. “Despite its elimination from the U.S., measles continues to be common in many other parts of the world and we continue to see imported cases. Because measles is so contagious, high levels of immunity in the community are needed to prevent its spread.”

Measles poses the highest risk to people who have not been vaccinated, especially pregnant women, infants under 12 months, and people with weakened immune systems.

You are considered immune to measles if ANY of the following apply:

1.    You were born before 1957 or;

2.    You are certain you have had the measles or;

3.    You have been fully vaccinated for measles (two doses of MMR vaccine).

If you or a family member are susceptible to the measles and were at Portland International Airport on Monday, March 24, 2014 from 7:45 p.m. to 10 p.m., you should watch for symptoms between now and April 14. If you are unsure of your immunization status or that of someone in your family, now is a good time to call your provider. If you do seek care for symptoms remember to call your provider ahead of your visit and let them know you are concerned about measles.

About measles:

  • The symptoms of measles start with a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes followed by a red rash that begins at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. 
  • People are contagious with measles for four days before the rash appears and up to four days after the rash starts.
  • After someone is exposed, illness usually develops in seven to 14 days. In rare cases, it can take up to up to 28 days for symptoms to occur. For this particular situation, public health officials would expect the onset of symptoms in newly infected people by April 25, 2014 at the latest.
  • Anyone who believes they have symptoms of measles should first contact their health care provider or urgent care by telephone to avoid exposing others.

“Immunization is the best protection against measles” says Dr. Vines. “Now is a very good time to make sure you and your children have been vaccinated against measles, especially if you plan to travel.”

Anyone with questions about measles infection or the measles vaccine should contact their primary care provider or their local county health department.

Clackamas County Public Health 503-655-8411

Clark County Public Health 360-397-8182

Multnomah County Public Health 503-988-3406

Washington County Public Health 503-846-3594