Local public-health officials are recommending that everyone in South King County and Pierce County make certain they’re up to date on their measles vaccinations after nine cases of measles were confirmed or suspected in the area.
Eight cases are among members of the same extended family in South King County, and one case is suspected in Pierce County. All nine are linked to a 10th person who returned to the United States from Pacific islands on May 26 with measles, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County.
Because there’s uncertainty about where the people with measles may have visited, all residents in the area should be up to date on their vaccinations and follow the recommendations below if they develop symptoms of measles, health officials say.
For at least the next three weeks, anyone who lives or works in South King County should be on alert for an illness with fever or unexplained rash, cough and red, watery eyes.
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People who suspect they have measles should call their health-care provider. They should not go to a medical facility without first calling.
Known public exposures occurred at several MultiCare health facilities where the cases were treated, including a Tacoma hospital. The facilities are contacting anyone who was present, including clients, visitors and staff, during the times of potential exposure. Details are on the MultiCare website (seati.ms/1izNC6F).
Members of the South King County household were too young to be vaccinated or had missed vaccinations, the health department said. Health officials are working closely with a community from Micronesia connected to the outbreak and conducting outreach to ensure as many community members as possible are vaccinated.
Most people in the area are immune to measles through vaccination, so the risk to the public is low, the health department says. However, measles is highly contagious and can cause a number of complications, said Dr. Sharon Dobie, a University of Washington professor of family medicine.
“You may not feel like you are vulnerable, but when you are coming down with the illness, you will be highly contagious,” Dobie said. “Do you really want to pass on a very dangerous virus to a small baby who hasn’t been immunized?”
There have been at least 20 confirmed cases of measles in Washington this year, the state Department of Health says. The state typically has five or fewer cases a year. Across the United States, 514 confirmed cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 20 states, the number is the highest since measles elimination was documented in the United States in 2000, according to the CDC. “Elimination” is the term used when measles is no longer native to the country.
Children should be vaccinated with two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. The first dose should be at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second at 4 to 6 years, health officials say.
Infants traveling outside the U.S. can be vaccinated as early as 6 months but must get the full two-dose series beginning at 12 months. Adults should have at least one dose of measles vaccine. Two doses are recommended for international travelers, health-care workers, and students in college, trade school and other schools after high school.
For people who need vaccinations and don’t have insurance or a regular health-care provider, the following health-care facilities are providing vaccinations, with a small administrative fee, for walk-in patients. Hours at all facilities are 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.
• SeaMar Burien (14434 Ambaum Blvd. S.W.): Monday through Saturday
• SeaMar Kent (233 Second Ave. S.): Monday through Friday
• SeaMar White Center (9650 15th Ave. S.W., #100): Monday through Friday
• SeaMar Bellevue (1811 156th Ave. N.E., Suite #2): Monday through Saturday
• SeaMar Seattle (8720 14th Ave. S.): Monday through Saturday
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org