Washington measles outbreak prompts concerns in Oregon

Eugene residents who visit the Portland area or go to school or work with those who do, take note: Clark County in southwest Washington has an outbreak of measles, and a case has been confirmed in Portland.

Lane County Public Health is encouraging people to be aware, take precautions and check their immunization status.

According to the public health agency, measles is very serious and can cause long-term complications like encephalitis, an infection and swelling of the brain. Measles is very contagious, and can live for up to two hours in the airspace where an infected person has coughed or sneezed.

It is so contagious that 90 percent of nonimmune or nonvaccinated people close to the infected person will also become infected. That makes it a much greater threat for those who are unvaccinated or those who are not old enough to be vaccinated. Measles can also be contagious up to four days before the telltale rash appears.

Symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough and runny nose. People begin to be contagious eight to 14 days after contracting the virus. Flu-like symptoms then change to a rash stage three to five days after the initial fever starts, and the fever can reach 104 degrees or higher.

If people or their children experience measles-like symptoms, or if they think they have been exposed to measles, they should not go to the doctor or hospital or out in public. Instead, they should stay home and call their medical provider and ask what to do next.

The best way to prevent measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine. Most adults already have received it, but people should double-check their status. The first dose for children is recommended at 12-15 months and the second dose can be administered 28 days after the first dose. Immunization is 97-99 percent effective after a person receives both doses.

The Oregon Health Authority has set up a toll-free information line on measles; dial 211 from any phone in Oregon.

University of Oregon students should visit the University Health Center website.