Measles spike in state, but Peninsula remains free of it

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The North Olympic Peninsula remains measles-free despite a spike in cases statewide.

The state Department of Health announced Thursday that there have been 27 confirmed cases of the highly contagious disease so far this year, with the most recent appearing in King and Pierce counties.

That’s more cases of measles than in the past five years combined and the highest one-year tally since 1996, state health officials said.

No cases have surfaced so far in Clallam or Jefferson counties, said Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for both counties, last week.

One Clallam County child developed a measles-like rash earlier this year, but tests confirmed it was not measles.

There have been no recent suspected cases in Clallam, Jefferson or Kitsap counties.

‘Increased surveillance’

“We’re in a period of increased surveillance,” Locke said Friday.

“Given how contagious it is, and given the sporadic outbreaks in the state, it’s really important with measles that you act quickly.”

When a case is detected, health officials move in to vaccinate those around the infected person.

Most of the confirmed cases this year were spread among family members.

Measles is associated with fever, runny nose, cough and a rash that develops all over the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It can cause significant complications in some cases, including pneumonia and brain swelling.

The viral illness is so contagious that transmission can occur two hours after an infected person leaves a room.

A Kitsap County man caught measles earlier this year by spending 45 minutes in a Friday Harbor bar.

The state’s population is increasingly susceptible to measles because of low vaccination rates, health officials say.

Measles is still common in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and can be carried back to the United States through travel.

Adults born before 1957, when the measles vaccine became available, are presumed to be immune because of past exposure.

The measles vaccine is available at health care clinics, the Clallam and Jefferson County health departments, and certain pharmacies.

Information about measles is available on the state Department of Health website at www.doh.wa.gov.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 12. 2014 5:32PM
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