UPDATE: Second measles case reported in Vancouver teen

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

Updated: March 3, 2011, 3:13 PM

 

A Clark County teenager was diagnosed with measles Wednesday evening, marking the second local case of the highly contagious disease in as many weeks.

Clark County Public Health officials are contacting about 200 people who may have been exposed at the boy’s Vancouver school and medical clinic, said Marni Storey, public health services manager.

The boy attended classes at Vancouver Christian High School on Friday. At the time, the boy was showing only mild symptoms, such as a runny nose and coughing, but was contagious, said Dr. Alan Melnick, county health officer.

On Tuesday, the boy visited Southwest Medical Group at Fisher’s Landing after developing a rash Monday night, Melnick said.

Health officials are contacting about 200 people at the medical clinic and 14 students at the boy’s school who were exposed. Not all of the people who were exposed at the clinic are susceptible to the illness, Storey said.

People are considered susceptible to measles if they have not received two doses of the measles vaccine and were born after Jan. 1, 1957, who are considered immune.

Officials are also alerting the community about one site where the boy visited Sunday: a 7-Eleven store in Vancouver.

Anyone who visited the 7-Eleven store at 5101 N.E. 112th Ave. in Vancouver between 4 and 8 p.m. Sunday are considered exposed to measles.

The family couldn’t pinpoint the exact time the boy was at the store, which is why officials issued such a long time frame, Melnick said. In addition, a person can catch the disease up to two hours after an infected person leaves the location, he said.

Susceptible people who are exposed to measles have a 90 percent chance of catching the disease, Melnick said.

“It is one of the, if not the, most contagious diseases,” he said.

But it’s also preventable with immunizations, Melnick added.

The boy’s school has 126 students, 13 of which were not fully immunized. Nine students at the school hadn’t received a vaccine; four of the students had received only one of two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, Melnick said.

Public health officials urged parents to vaccinate those students. The measles vaccine is most effective if given within 72 hours of exposure. That time frame has passed for those exposed at the school and 7-Eleven, but Melnick said officials still want the children to be immunized to prevent future spread of the disease.

“I would not be surprised if we see more cases in the coming weeks,” he said.

The students at the school who had received one dose of the vaccine can return to school after receiving the second vaccine. Health officials asked the other students who hadn’t been immunized at all to stay out of school and any public places for the next two weeks, Melnick said.

Measles has an incubation period of seven to 21 days, which in this case runs from Sunday through March 20.

The recent case marks the second measles diagnosis in Clark County in two weeks.

A local infant was diagnosed on Feb. 14 with measles after returning from a family trip to India. The Vancouver teenager was exposed at the medical clinic, Evergreen Pediatrics, the infant visited. The teen was vaccinated after being exposed to measles, Storey said.

The first symptoms of measles are a fever of up to 104 degrees, runny nose, cough, sneezing and red, watery eyes. Within a few days, a rash appears on the face and moves down most of the body.

In the initial stages, measles symptoms are similar to those of common viral illnesses, Melnick said.

Measles is rare in the United States because most people are vaccinated against the illness. Washington state requires children have two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine before beginning school. However, the state does allow for exemptions for medical, religious or philosophical reasons, Storey said.

“In general, most Clark County school-aged children are vaccinated,” she said.

The county has a vaccination rate of about 95 percent, Storey said.

There is a bill making its way through the Washington State Legislature that would require parents take an extra step if they wish to use a waiver. The bill would require parents to get a signed doctor’s note confirming the parent had been informed of the benefits of vaccinations, Melnick said.

“As a public health official, I’d be very happy to see that pass,” he said.

To determine whether you are susceptible to measles, call Clark County Public Health at 397-8205 after 10 a.m. or contact your health care provider.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.