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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, January 23, 2015
Dr. Rachel C. Wood, Health Officer for Lewis and Thurston Counties, WoodR@co.thurston.wa.us or (360) 867-2501

Help Stop the Spread of Diseases in Washington—Get Vaccinated!
County health officials urge vaccinations for measles, chickenpox, whooping cough and flu

Thurston County health officials are alerting the public that cases of measles, chickenpox whooping cough and the flu have been confirmed in Washington state in the last month. Health officials point out that these illnesses are all preventable with vaccines, and that those who have not yet been vaccinated should protect themselves and other vulnerable people from the diseases and their complications by getting immunized.

"All of these diseases have the risk of very serious complications, and in some cases can even lead to death. But the good news is that every one of these diseases is preventable with a simple vaccine," said Dr. Rachel Wood, Health Officer for Lewis and Thurston counties. "I would encourage anyone who has not yet been vaccinated for measles, chickenpox, whooping cough or the flu to talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated as soon as possible. And getting vaccinated is not just good for your own health, it helps prevent the spread of these diseases amongst your family, friends, and the community."

Measles is very contagious. The virus travels through the air—that means if you're not immune to measles, you can become infected if you go near someone who has the virus, even if they aren't yet showing symptoms. A person who hasn't been immunized against measles will most likely get it if exposed. Symptoms appear between seven and 21 days after exposure, and include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash that covers the body. Complications can include pneumonia, and in rare cases even death. Pregnant women who contract the virus are at risk of giving birth prematurely or miscarrying.

Chickenpox (varicella zoster virus) is highly contagious and causes a blister-like rash, itching, fatigue and fever. The rash appears first on the torso and face and can spread over the entire body. The virus is spread from person-to-person contact with the fluid from the rash, through airborne exposure (coughing and sneezing) or by droplets. Symptoms of chickenpox typically appear 10 to 21 days after exposure. An individual with chickenpox is contagious up five days before the rash starts and until all blisters have formed scabs. Individuals at highest risk of getting the chickenpox include those who have not yet had it, or have not been vaccinated against it. Serious complications can occur in those with weakened immune systems, infants and pregnant women.

Whooping Cough
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Symptoms can develop within five to 21 days of exposure, but usually appear within seven to 10 days. The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms (runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild cough), but can cause a dangerous pause in breathing called apnea in infants. After one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin, which can lead to coughing fits that continue for weeks. Pertussis can cause illness in infants, children and adults and can be life-threatening, especially for infants.

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness. Symptoms appear between one to four days after exposure, and include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, body aches and non-productive cough. Complications of the flu can lead to hospitalization or even death. Older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications. While this year's flu vaccine is less effective at preventing the flu than in previous years, health officials still recommend getting vaccinated—getting the flu vaccine can lessen the severity of the illness and how long you're sick. Antiviral medications are recommended for those who get the flu and are at high risk of complications.

Unvaccinated individuals who are exposed to or become ill with measles, chickenpox or whooping cough should stay home from school or work. "One infected person who is contagious can spread the disease to other susceptible people," said Dr. Wood. "Isolation of individuals who are ill with disease, and quarantine of people who may be incubating an illness are ways that public health prevents further spread of a disease." If there are many cases of illness, unvaccinated individuals may be required to stay away from a work place, school or daycare to help stop the spread of the illness. And because these diseases have incubation periods of up to 21 days, unvaccinated individuals may be required to stay away for three weeks or longer, depending on the duration of the outbreak.

If you or a family member is not yet vaccinated for measles, chickenpox, whooping cough or the flu, now is the time get those vaccines. Check with your healthcare provider about how many doses you and your family need.

If you or a family member are net yet immune to measles, chickenpox, or pertussis and develop symptoms, please contact your health care provider before visiting the office. If you develop symptoms of the flu and are in a high risk category for developing complications, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible to start antiviral medications.

For more information about vaccines and stopping the spread of communicable diseases, visit the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services website at www.co.thurston.wa.us/health.


County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3