With confirmation of measles virus in Washington state, Grant County Health District (GCHD) is advising individuals to check their children’s and their own vaccination status and verify they are up-to-date with the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Although no measles cases are confirmed in Grant County, Clark County Public Health, in western Washington state, has identified dozens of confirmed cases. Additionally, related cases have now been identified outside Clark County. Washington State Department of Health has the most up-to-date information on the outbreak. Anyone who believes they may have been exposed and believes they have symptoms of measles should call their healthcare provider prior to visiting the medical office to make a plan that avoids exposing others in the waiting room.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly-contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat, and is followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. It spreads so easily that someone who is not protected through being immunized or having had measles in the past, can get it if they walk into a room where someone with the disease has been in the past couple of hours.
How serious is measles?
Measles is a very serious disease. About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, which can result in hearing loss, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. One or two out of 1,000 die from measles complications. Measles can also cause pregnant woman to give birth prematurely or have a low birth weight baby. Complications from measles are very common among children younger than five and adults older than 20.
Measles spreads so easily that anyone who is exposed to it and is not immune (for example, someone who has not been vaccinated) will probably get the disease.
Who gets measles?
Anyone who hasn’t been immunized or had measles in the past is at risk. Babies younger than 12 months are at risk because most are too young to have been vaccinated yet. Pregnant women, young kids, and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for complications from measles.
- The symptoms of measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected.
- Measles typically begins with:
- high fever,
- runny nose (coryza), and
- red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
- Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth.
- Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a red or reddish-brown rash appears. The rash usually begins on a person’s face at the hairline and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.
- When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° F. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.
How soon do symptoms appear?
- 7 to 21 days after exposure: mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and sore throat.
- 2 to 4 days after symptoms begin: tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth.
- 3 to 5 days after symptoms begin: a red or reddish-brown raised rash that feels like sandpaper appears, usually beginning on the face. The rash rapidly spreads down the neck, upper arms, and chest. Later, it spreads over the back, abdomen, the rest of the arms, thighs, legs, and feet. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Symptoms usually last seven to 10 days.
What if someone in my family may have measles or was exposed to someone with measles?
Call your doctor, nurse or clinic right away. Before you go to the provider’s office, call to tell them that you or your family member might have measles.This will allow them to take steps to avoid exposing other people. Try to stay away from other people until at least four days after the rash starts or a test proves it’s not measles.
There is no specific treatment beyond bed rest, fluids, and control of fever. There may be additional treatment if complications develop.
- Common complications include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, or acute encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave a child deaf or developmentally delayed). Complications are more common in children under 5 years of age and adults older than 20.
- One of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one child will develop encephalitis, and one or two will die from measles complications.
- Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage or premature births.
- Measles is usually combined with mumps and rubella in the MMR vaccine.
- Children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine: the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age.
- Adults born before January 1, 1957 are assumed to be immune to measles. Other adults (except for pregnant women) who have not had measles or been vaccinated are at risk and should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Pregnant women should not be vaccinated until after delivery.
Samaritan Hospital (Moses Lake) in partnership with GCHD is offering $25 MMR blood titer testing through their direct access program. Columbia Basin Hospital (Ephrata) is also offing direct access to MMR blood titer testing for $55. If you are questioning your immunity to measles or need evidence of immunity, this is an opportunity for you! At both locations, walk-ins are welcome on a first come first serve basis.
Samaritan Hospital: Monday- Friday 6:00am-6:00pm and on Saturdays 9:00am-12:00pm at Samaritan Hospital and go directly to their lab. Columbia Basin Hospital: Monday- Friday 8:00am-5:00pm and go directly to their lab. Test results are given directly to the client within about a 4 day turn around time. Samaritan Hospital, Columbia Basin Hospital and GCHD will not be retaining test records. Once results are given to the client, the client assumes responsibility of their MMR titer testing records. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call GCHD at 509-766-7960, Samaritan Hospital at 509-765-5606 or Columbia Basin Hospital 509-754-4631.
- Protect your children by having them vaccinated.
- Protect yourself by making sure you have immunity to measles.
- If you think you might have been exposed to measles and need to seek healthcare, call ahead so appropriate measures can be taken to protect other patients and
Where can I get more information about measles?