More than a week after being diagnosed with the measles, a Port Angeles man in his 50s is in stable condition and recovering while in isolation at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, health officials say.
The Washington State Public Health Lab confirmed his diagnosis last week but the measles source remains unknown.
Dr. Tom Locke, Clallam County Health officer, said they’ve sent the man’s measles cultures to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to trace their origins to other known cases.
Several dozen people who have been in contact with the man remain quarantined at their homes, Locke said, unless they’ve previously been immunized for the measles or had the measles before 1957.
He said tests should be in by the end of the week to determine if those people in quarantine are immune. People quarantined are not circulating the community, Locke said, and that a blood test should reveal those who are safe to return to work.
“If we find they are not immune, then they’ll be in quarantine for 21 days past exposure,” he said. “The reason is that not only can they get measles, but they can spread it before they even feel sick with it.”
Measles, considered one of the most contagious viral diseases, is spread in the air and over 90 percent of susceptible individuals will become infected if exposed.
Locke said he does not know if the Port Angeles man was immunized but if he was, then it means he’s one of the few who remain susceptible.
“It’s true there are people who are immunized and the vaccine doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s about 95 percent accurate. Children get two vaccinations but the second isn’t a booster. If you give a a second dose, it goes up to 99 percent. Measles are so contagious that the difference between 95 and 99 is important.”
Locke said they haven’t seen any secondary measles cases traced to the Port Angeles man’s case.
“Every day that passes without a secondary case is good,” he said. “No news is good news. We’re focused on getting people vaccinated.”
The health department reports locals born before 1957 are presumed to be immune to measles but those born in 1957 or after the vaccination was created should have at least one dose.
High-risk individuals like children, adolescents and people with occupational or travel exposure risk are recommended to have at least two doses of the vaccine.
Children typically receive the vaccine at 12 months-15 months for the first dose, Locke said, and the second between ages 4-5.
“No. 1, people shouldn’t feel any personal sense of threat,” Locke said.
“We are in a state of active surveillance. Medical providers are looking carefully for people with rashes. We probably have a single case and there’s no reason to believe that the people we’ve identified (for quarantine) are at risk.”
He recommends people check with their health care provider to see if they are immune. Locke recommends that if you show symptoms, you call your doctor first before coming in due to protocol in place for measles cases.
“If they are immune to measles, then there’s nothing to worry about at all,” he said. “Probably 95 percent of the community is already immune.”
A blood test is available to determine whether a person is immune to measles, too.
If you haven’t been vaccinated, Locke said extra vaccine is being sent out to community doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
“Whatever the demand is, we’re committed to meeting it,” Locke said.
How it’s handled
Locke said people can become very sick with the measles and if the patient requires hospitalization, then a mask is immediately put on them at the clinic to prevent the virus from spreading in the air.
Next the patient is placed in an isolated negative pressure room, he said, where air is continuously filtered and if a doctor or nurse opens a door, nothing goes out.
“A fair number of people with measles will be able to stay home until four days after the rash starts,” he said. “We make sure family members are immune.”
Those with the measles start with a fever and then one of or all three symptoms, Locke said, pink eye, congestion and/or a cough.
Then two to four days later after the fever and a general sense of feeling sick, a rash starts on the head along the hairline before moving to the face and down the body.
“It’s a pretty dramatic rash with red blotches,” Locke said.
Measles can circulate in the air for about two hours but is not picked up by hand contact, Locke said.
“It’s why it’s so contagious because you can get it from just sharing the same air,” he said.
Locke said if any cases are reported in a school system, then students who are not immunized are sent home.
The Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with Olympic Medical Center and the Washington State Department of Health, continues to investigate the case.
For more information on vaccinations and clinics, contact the Clallam County Health Department at 417-2274.
Local measles exposure
With the Olympic Peninsula’s only-known case of the measles in isolation in Port Angeles, health officials traced where the man traveled to while contagious in Clallam County and King County from Jan. 26-30. Officials warn that anyone who was in one of the following locations during these times may have been exposed to measles:
Tuesday, Jan. 27
• 3:30-5:45 p.m. at Wendy’s, 1830 E. First St., Port Angeles
• 4:45-6:55 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant IGS & Texaco Gas Station, 3010 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles
Thursday, Jan. 29
• 9:01-11:15 a.m. at Jamestown Longhouse Gas Station and Convenience Store, 271020 U.S. Highway 101, Sequim
• 3:19-5:30 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant IGS & Texaco Gas Station, 3010 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles
Friday, Jan. 30
• 11:13 a.m.-1:23 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant IGS & Texaco Gas Station, 3010 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles
Thursday, Jan. 29
• 11 a.m.-1:10 p.m. at SeaTac Rest Area (I-5 Northbound), Federal Way
• 11:25 a.m.-1:35 p.m. at Owen Equipment Company, 8721 S. 218th St., Kent
• 11:45 a.m.-1:50 p.m. at Bent Bike Motorcycle Salvage, 4337 Auburn Way North, Auburn
Free immunization clinics
Clallam County Health and Human Services hosts free immunization clinics for the measles from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Friday, Feb. 12-13, for children and adults not immunized, in the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles. Call 360-417-2274 to schedule an appointment.