Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department received confirmation Thursday of Pierce County’s first case of measles in at least six years.
The agency is investigating the case of a Pierce County child with the highly contagious disease, and is working to ensure that family members and neighbors who may have had contact with the infant are vaccinated, a spokeswoman for the Health Department said.
The infant’s exposure likely occurred on June 10 in a healthcare setting when a King County family sought medical care in Pierce County, not knowing they were infected. The infant’s family later sought care in other health care settings.
The Health Department is working with the relevant health care providers to ensure that those who may have been exposed will be contacted. Medical facilities are directly contacting persons who were present – clients, visitors, and staff – during the times of potential exposure
People who visited the following healthcare settings should contact their regular health care provider to let them know they were exposed to the measles:
• June 22, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m., Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital Tacoma General Hospital emergency departments.
• June 24, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Mary Bridge and Tacoma General emergency departments.
• June 24-25, 8:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., St. Joseph Medical Center emergency department.
“While any disease outbreak is a serious problem, it is important that Pierce County residents use this as an opportunity to check their vaccination records to ensure they are up to date on the measles vaccination, and other important vaccinations,” said Nigel Turner, communicable disease and emergency preparedness division director at the Health Department.
Since cases of measles began to circulate in Washington in March, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has issued regular alerts to medical providers urging them to ensure patients are updated on their vaccinations and take appropriate infection control measures to minimize any possible exposure. In addition, the health department provided a letter to school districts to distribute to families asking parents and guardians to ensure their child’s vaccinations were up to date. In Pierce County, the measles vaccination rate among K-12 public and private school children is more than 90 percent.
“None of us lives in isolation. Each of us has a role in protecting the community against disease,” said Turner. “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.”
If you think you were potentially exposed to measles, be alert for an illness with fever or illness with an unexplained rash for at least the next three weeks. A combination of these signs or symptoms is a strong indicator of measles: fever, rash, cough, and red, watery eyes, health officials said.
Now is a good time to confirm whether or not you’ve been vaccinated for measles or have had measles previously. Since most people in our area have immunity to the measles through vaccination, the risk to the general public is low.
Anyone with symptoms of measles should:
• Call a health care provider promptly and tell them you want to be evaluated for measles.
• To avoid possibly spreading measles to other patients, you should not go to a clinic or hospital without calling first.
• Pierce County residents without a regular healthcare provider who think they might have measles should call 253-798-6410, option “0.”
If you do not have a regular healthcare provider, you can look up free and low cost vaccine resources for adults and children at www.tpchd.org/immunizations.
Measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease that causes fever, rash, cough, and red, watery eyes. It is mainly spread through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms begin seven to 21 days after exposure. Measles is contagious from approximately four days before the rash appears through four days after the rash appears. People can spread measles before they have the characteristic measles rash.
People at highest risk from exposure to measles include those who are unvaccinated, pregnant women, infants and those with weakened immune systems. Persons born before Jan. 1, 1957 are considered immune to measles from natural exposure. Persons born after that date are considered immune if they have had two doses of measles containing vaccine, serological evidence of immunity, or have had measles disease diagnosed by a medical provider. For more information about measles, visit www.tpchd.org/measles.
Health officials say children should be vaccinated with two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose should be at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at four through six years of age. Infants traveling outside the United States can be vaccinated as early as six months but must receive the full two dose series beginning at 12 months of age.