On Monday, Clark County Public Health announced the measles outbreak in Southwestern Washington has risen to 62 cases, up from the 41 confirmed cases The Observer reported on Feb. 1. The Oregon Health Authority cited four confirmed cases of measles in Multnomah County as of Feb. 7.
According to The Columbian, a newspaper in Vancouver, Washington, “of the 62 confirmed cases in Clark County, 54 were not immunized and six were unverified. There are now two cases who have received one dose of the MMR vaccine, which provides 93 percent effectiveness.”
The Columbian last reported 53 measles cases in Washington state on Friday, showing just how viral this disease is, with nine more instances of the sickness appearing over the weekend.
Elizabeth Sieders, communicable disease nurse at the Center for Human Development in La Grande, wrote in an email update on Feb. 15 that there “continues to be no suspect measles activity in Union County at this time.”
Sieders also noted because it has been 23 days since a person from Union County knowingly was exposed to measles, and the disease’s incubation period is only seven to 18 days, she is encouraged when calculating the diminishing risk of measles reaching Union County through resident travel or importation.
“Grande Ronde Hospital and CHD are continuing to promote education of the disease within the community as the main method of outbreak prevention at this time,” she wrote. “This has resulted in a significant increase in demand for (the) MMR vaccine, which both GRH and CHD have been able to fulfill.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine are 97 percent effective against measles, and one dose is 93 percent effective. CDC recommends children receive their first dose between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Measles, a highly contagious airborne disease, according to CDC, can sit for up to two hours in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed.
“If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected,” the CDC website states. “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”
Measles symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes, small white spots inside the mouth and, most noticeably, a red rash that first appears on the face and moves down the neck to the rest of the body.
La Grande resident Kathy McGuire, a retired quality control mechanical inspector, recalls her experience of suffering through the measles when she was 17.
“I started feeling like I was getting sick, not like the flu, more like I was catching a cold, but I had a fever. A day or so later, I still wasn’t feeling better, and that’s when I developed the rash,” said McGuire, who is now 63. “I don’t remember if I went to the doctor or not. My parents were both nurses so they would’ve known (it was the measles).”
A few days later, her symptoms worsened, causing her to miss almost two weeks of work and school.
“I was extremely sensitive to light so I had to stay inside all day with the drapes pulled in a darkened room,” she recalled. “Several days into it is when I started to notice my joints getting achy, especially my hands. My fingers were getting really stiff, swollen and sore.”
McGuire believes the measles may have contributed to her long-term arthritis, which she began to develop when she was 20 years old.
“I don’t see these childhood diseases as being harmless, because they aren’t,” she said.
In fact, complications of measles can sometimes have life-altering, or sometimes even life-threatening, effects on the children who contract it.
“The part that people don’t understand is it’s not just about the disease itself, it’s also about the complications that go along with having the disease,” said Amy Miles, infection preventionist at GRH, in a previous interview.
Measles complications include pneumonia, the No. 1 cause of death for children who contract measles, and encephalitis, which is the swelling of the brain. CDC reports children younger than 5 and adults older than 20 are most likely to suffer from measles complications.
“The measles vaccine is a phenomenal vaccine,” Miles said, and add that the unfounded fear of it causing autism is “really unfortunate, because this vaccine is so effective.”