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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Dr. Rachel Wood, Thurston County Health Officer, (360) 867-2617 or WoodR@co.thurston.wa.us
Jeannie Knight, Epidemiologist, Public Health & Social Services Dept, (360) 867-2535 or KnightJ@co.thurston.wa.us

Measles outbreak in surrounding counties—time to get immunized now!
Vaccine provides protection from highly infectious illness

OLYMPIA - San Juan, Whatcom and Kitsap counties are currently experiencing measles outbreaks. Twelve cases have been confirmed since mid-March. Five or fewer cases are typically reported each year in Washington State. No cases have been diagnosed in Thurston County so far in 2014.

Much of the increase in Washington State is likely related to an outbreak occurring in Canada, where more than 300 measles cases have been diagnosed this spring. California is also experiencing an increase in measles cases, with 49 people reported ill this year. Many of those cases, as well as some of the Washington cases, can be traced to travel to Southeast Asia by people not protected against measles.

Measles, also known as rubeola, is highly-infectious and usually causes severe illness that can be complicated by pneumonia, encephalitis, seizures. Some cases can be fatal. Symptoms begin from 7 to 21 days after exposure and include fever, cough and red, watery eyes. A rash then begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles is contagious from the time symptoms start-approximately four days before the rash appears-until four days after the rash developed.

Measles spreads easily among susceptible persons. People are immune to measles if they had measles or were properly vaccinated. Most people born before 1957 had the disease as children; younger persons are routinely vaccinated against measles. Because most people in our area are vaccinated against measles, the risk to the general population is low. However, persons who are unvaccinated, pregnant women, infants less than six months of age and persons with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of developing illness if exposed to measles. These groups should contact their health care providers right away if they develop an illness with fever and an unexplained rash.

The measles vaccine works well, providing greater than 95% protection against infection for life after two shots. Even after one shot, most people develop some protection against measles. Once you get vaccinated, you develop protection against measles infection in about two weeks. If you have not been vaccinated and are exposed to measles, you are at risk of developing and exposing others to measles, and should stay home (don't go to work or to school or out in public) for up to three weeks.

Protect yourself and others against measles by: a) knowing your measles immunization status; b) getting vaccinated against measles if needed; and c) staying home if you are sick.

For more information about measles and where to get vaccinated, visit the Thurston Public Health and Social Services (TCPHSS) website at http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health or see your health care provider. Additional information is available by calling the measles information line at 709-3080.


County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3