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Health department alert: Measles case could be confirmed

April 1, 2011

The Hood River County Health Department is advising residents about possible exposure to measles. A person with a highly suspect case of measles, which has not yet been confirmed by laboratory testing, was in two public locations on March 26 and March 28, as well as a physician's office on March 28 and March 29.

The Hood River County Health Department has contacted individuals who have been identified as being in the Hood River locations within two hours of the ill person's visit. The physician's office in conjunction with the health department has contacted all the individuals who were in the office when there was risk of exposure.

The Hood River resident was in the following two locations while contagious:

— Bette's Place, 416 Oak St., on March 26 from 11 a.m. to noon. Because measles virus can remain airborne after an ill person coughs or sneezes, there was a risk of exposure for people in the restaurant between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

— Walgreen's Drug Store, 1727 12th St., on March 28 from 4:30-5 p.m. The risk of exposure was from 4:30-7 p.m.

Most people in our community have been protected from measles by their routine vaccinations for measles. However, measles is highly contagious and anyone not immune to measles is at significant risk if they were in the same room with the person from March 25 until April 1.

The Hood River County Health Department recommends that persons potentially exposed at the above locations take these steps:

1. Determine if you might be susceptible to measles. Most people are immune. People are considered immune if they were born before Jan. 1, 195; have had two measles shots, typically given as a Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR); have had measles diagnosed by a health care provider; have had a blood test showing they are immune.

2. If you were exposed and NOT immune, call your health care provider or Hood River County Health Department for advice.

3. Do not delay. Pregnant women, children under a year old and immune-compromised persons who have no antibodies to measles are at highest risk if exposed. These persons are advised to call immediately.

4. Persons potentially exposed to measles who have had only a single dose of vaccine are advised to receive a second dose.

Measles is a potentially serious disease characterized by a fever, fatigue, rash and one or more of the following symptoms: cough, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and nasal congestion. Symptoms begin 7-18 days after exposure.

Anyone who develops fever with a rash should call ahead to their health care provider's office to avoid exposing others in the office.

Before the national measles vaccine program began in 1963, about 3-4 million Americans got measles every year. Each year about 48,000 were hospitalized, 1,000 had permanent brain damage and 500 died. Since 1963 the number of cases in the U.S. has dropped dramatically and from 2001-08 the average was 58 per year. These often occur in unvaccinated U.S. residents (especially infants) who travel internationally as well as non-residents who enter the country.

Oregon's last confirmed case was in 2008. Hood River County has had no confirmed cases for the past 20 years. Vaccination with two doses is greater than 95 percent protective.

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