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New Case Of Measles Turns Up In Marion County

March 14, 2019

Oregon now has a measles case in Marion County. 

It is not linked to the outbreak in Vancouver, Washington, officials said. Instead, the person contracted the disease from someone who traveled to Salem from Illinois.

That person spends time in countries where measles is common and had not been immunized, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Chief medical officer, Dr. Richard Leman, said outbreaks can be tracked by comparing measles RNA.

“So it’s an RNA virus, and there are things we can do with that. But that takes much longer. So really the epidemiology is the gold standard and we can follow that up with fancy tests,” said Leman.

His office tracks outbreaks by interviewing people rather than using RNA tests. So, when did the infected person start showing symptoms? Where did they go before that? And who did they meet?

After asking those questions, Leman said he's convinced the Marion County case came from Illinois, and not Vancouver, where 72 people have now been sickened.

“Let’s just say we have a high degree of confidence because we had a good story from another state that they had a person who was confirmed with measles. And we know that during the infectious period, that person was in Marion County,” said Leman.

Exposure locations for the Marion County case include Portland International Airport, the "Get Air Trampoline Park" in Salem, the local Red Robin and "Youth With A Mission" group.

Leman said it’s really not that important to know where an outbreak originally came from. The fact is it’s here.

“What’s really important is for public health to be talking with folks, finding out who else may have been exposed to measles, who’s not vaccinated and having those people avoid contact with other unvaccinated people if they become ill,” said Leman.

He said it’s a terrible disease that he contracted as a kid and spent days flat on his back.

He said that Oregonians and Washingtonians are taking these outbreaks seriously. For instance, he said when people come in contact with the disease, they appear to be acting in ways to avoid getting others sick.

Also, the population, in general, appears to be responding.

“We have seen an increase in vaccination and I think that’s a healthy thing,” said Leman.

The Oregon Health Authority says it has been stepping up efforts to provide clear and accurate information to counteract misinformation that spreads online. Spokesman Jonathan Modie said they’re responding quickly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts when erroneous information surfaces.

“We will just try to cite the evidence as much as we can. And it might be comments or questions from parents who have heard the information second hand. So they’re legitimate concerns and legitimate questions that we want people to get to the bottom of,” said Modie.

He said they provide the kind of double-blind, peer-reviewed studies backed by places like the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.

The Oregon Health Authority said there have been seven cases of measles in Oregon this year. They said one case in Columbia County as not linked to the Vancouver outbreak. It happened back in January and the individual is no longer in the state. Another case in Multnomah County is not linked either. It was identified in February and exposure sites are listed as Portland International Airport and Randall Children’s Hospital.

In the meantime, the Oregon Health Authority has an incident management team working to react quickly to new cases. And they’re putting together figures to find out how much the outbreaks have cost the state so far.