Confirmed Case of Measles in Portland Metro Area

Multnomah County is tracking a case of measles, identifying as many as 500 people who might have been exposed. At highest risk are 40 people, mostly infants.

Measles rash.jpg

Multnomah County is tracking a case of measles and has notified 500 people that they might have been exposed.

They include 40 people that health officials are tracking on a daily basis -- by email, text or phone -- because they face the highest risk. Most are infants too young to be vaccinated.

“For every 1,000 kids who get measles, one or two die,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County deputy health officer. “One in four needs to be hospitalized. The majority would be expected to recover but it’s a nasty disease and the complication rate is not trivial.”

Symptoms include fever, a rash, cough and swollen eyes. Complications include an ear infection, lung infection or diarrhea. Patients can also suffer encephalitis, a swollen brain which can lead to death.

Measles is extremely contagious but it’s preventable by a highly effective vaccine. The first shot, however, is not recommended until age 1, making infants especially vulnerable. The second shot is recommended between ages 4 to 6.

Oregon has a relatively low vaccination rate compared with other states. Overall, most people are vaccinated, but health officials worry about the potential fallout of a single case in a community with a relatively low vaccination rate, such as areas of Jackson and Josephine counties.

Health officials would not release details about the latest patient, who developed symptoms June 22 and was confirmed to have the infection five days later at Adventist Medical Center in Southeast Portland. They did say the patient spent time at an unnamed child care center in Gresham. The center serves about 120 babies and children through preschool. Vines said 98 percent of those enrolled at the center have been vaccinated.

“They have a good vaccination rate,” Vines said.

Everyone who was potentially exposed has been notified, Vines said.

The group of 40 being tracked daily includes a few who’ve either not been vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown. They also include children who have not had two shots of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine -- MMR.

There is no cure for the viral infection, which causes one of four patients to be hospitalized. In-patient care mainly consists of fluids and other palliative care.

Vines said there is not much risk of a community-wide outbreak: "There is not a risk of a huge outbreak but we want to get on it so that we stop it immediately.”

Measles poses the highest risk to people who have not been vaccinated, to pregnant women, infants under 12 months and people with weakened immune systems. Anyone who’s had measles is considered immune. That includes most people born before 1957 who lived through several measles epidemics. The vaccine didn’t become available until the early 1960s.

After someone is infected, symptoms usually develop in about 2 weeks, sometimes longer. Multnomah County Health Department is advising anyone who has been exposed and believes they have symptoms of measles to first call their health care provider or urgent care by telephone to avoid exposing others in waiting rooms.

“Because measles is so contagious, high levels of immunity in the community are needed to prevent its spread,” Vines said.

She said this was a good reminder for those who’ve not been vaccinated to do so.

For more information, call:

  • Clackamas County Public Health 503-655-8411
  • Clark County Public Health 360-397-8182
  • Multnomah County Public Health 503-988-3406

Reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].