On May 26, an individual returned to the U.S. from the Pacific Islands carrying the measles. That isolated case soon spread and now public health officials in the region are investigating eight confirmed cases of measles in south King County and a single case of a second infected child in Pierce County.
The eight known cases in south King County are among members of the same family.
In a press release dated June 26, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said the uncertainty of where the people with measles may have visited in south King County or Pierce County means anyone living in these area should be aware of the possible spread of this highly contagious disease.
The second child was infected on July 10-11 when the first infected child from the south King County family visited Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. Exposure periods at Mary Bridge, Tacoma General and St. Joseph Medical emergency departments were between the hours of 4:30-10:30 p.m., June 22; 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., June 24; and 8:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. June 24-25.
“Measles is a serious disease and highly contagious,” said Edie Jeffers, spokeswoman for the health department. “This is a very important time for people to make sure they’re up to date on their vaccinations.”
Jeffers said the rate of vaccination among children in kindergarten at public and private schools is 92 percent.
“By the time that child reaches sixth grade, that rate increases to 97 percent,” Jeffers added. “We have done well getting the word out about the importance of vaccination.”
But Jeffers said there are those pockets of adults who, for whatever reason, are not up to date on their vaccinations and who are around young children.
Children between the ages of 1 year and 15 months are recommended to receive their first measles vaccination dose. The second dose, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, is between age 4 and 6.
“We’ve been working with health care providers since measles first came into Washington state,” Jeffers explained. “Well before the end of the school year we got a letter out to local school districts about getting information home to parents. We’ve done a lot of proactive campaigning.”
Nigel Turner, the communicable disease and emergency preparedness division director at the health department, encourages the public to remember no one lives in isolation.
“Each of us has a role in protecting the community against disease,” Turner said. “Getting vaccinated against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases is a step each of us can take to protect our loved ones and the larger community from illnesses that can be deadly for our most vulnerable.”
Symptoms of the measles are a combination of fever, rash, cough and red, watery eyes. If an individual suspects they are infected, they are encouraged to call their health care provider promptly to be checked out. The health department also recommends the individual should not visit a hospital or clinic without calling first, to avoid possible exposure to other patients.
Jeffers said those without a regular health care provider can visit tpchd.org/immunizations for a list of free and low-cost vaccine resources. More information about measles can be found at tpchd.org/measles.