King County health officials confirmed an eighth case of measles in the Puget Sound area after a 6-month-old child was brought to Seattle Children’s hospital Friday while she was contagious.
This is the fifth measles case in King County this month. The baby contracted the highly-contagious disease from someone in her household, not from exposure in the community.
Officials with Public Health – Seattle & King County say the only place they know the child might have exposed people was in the Seattle Children’s emergency room from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday. Because the measles virus can linger in the air for up to two hours after a contagious person leaves the area, county officials flag the public locations for two hours after the individual has left it.
Seattle Children’s has notified patients and families in the emergency department who may have been exposed.
The health department lists public exposure locations at kingcounty.gov/measles/cases. People who have been at the flagged locations should confirm they’re up to date with their MMR vaccines (measles, mumps, and rubella) and call a healthcare provider if measles-like symptoms, including fever or illness with an unexplained rash, appear.
Measles symptoms typically appear between seven to 21 days after the last exposure to someone with measles. People at the highest risk include infants and children under age 5, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and anyone who has not been vaccinated.
Kathryn Mueller, of Seattle Children’s, said the hospital and health officials advise people to call ahead when planning to arrive with someone suspected of having measles. “That way, we are aware and that mitigates the risk of exposure,” Mueller said.
The 2019 measles outbreak in this area began May 9 and has led to cases in schools in Issaquah and Bothell. Teachers and students who haven’t been vaccinated or can’t prove they’ve been vaccinated are being kept away from the respective campuses for a quarantine period.
The seventh case was confirmed May 21. Officials say the woman in question most likely came into contact with the measles virus at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
An earlier outbreak in Clark County, which began Jan. 3 and was declared over on April 29, saw over 70 measles diagnoses, nearly all of which were children or adults who had not been immunized. The remainder were adults who either had incomplete immunizations (only one dose of MMR vaccine) or whose immunization status could not be verified.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles.”
The CDC reports that the 2019 measles outbreak in the U.S. is the most significant since 1994, with 880 cases reported between Jan. 1 and May 17.
Before 1963, when measles vaccination programs began, the CDC estimates, 3 to 4 million people contracted measles annually in the United States. Of those cases reported to the CDC each year, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 developed encephalitis, or brain swelling.
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