Measles outbreak: What you need to know

Feb 6, 2019


Measles symptoms begin with flu-like symptoms before a rash. If you begin to develop measles symptoms and have possibly been exposed, DO NOT rush to the ER or clinic.

Be a hero — call your primary care physician or county health department.

Emergency Department: 503-251-6251

County Health Departments:
Clackamas: 503-655-8411 
Clark: 360-397-8412 
Multnomah: 503-988-3406 
Washington: 503-846-3594 

Clark County Measles Outbreak: OMSI revealed as new exposure site; 49 confirmed cases 

A local measles outbreak has caught the attention of Portland/Vancouver area news sources. As of Feb. 5, 2019,
49 cases of measles have been confirmed in Clark County, Washington. Eleven more cases are suspected there. There is also one confirmed case so far in Multnomah County, Oregon.

Because people with measles can be infectious before they even realize they’re infected, a number of people in the Portland/Vancouver area may have been exposed. Some of the larger venues listed as exposure sites include OMSI, the Moda Center, Ikea, Portland International Airport and Costco in Portland as well as a number of schools, churches and medical facilities in Clark County, Washington.

Though once a common childhood disease, measles is no longer regularly occurring in the United States. However, on rare occasions, an outbreak occurs — typically due to exposure abroad by a susceptible traveler.

Are you at risk of measles?

Measles is highly contagious. In fact, 90 percent of people close to someone with measles will contract the disease if they are not immune through previous exposure or vaccination.


That said, most people who grew up in the United States either had measles before the vaccine was available or had the vaccine. Immunity usually lasts your lifetime. “You are considered immune if you had two shots in childhood,” explains Debra Johnson, FNP, a primary care provider at Adventist Health’s Gresham Station clinic. “You are 93 percent protected after the 1-year shot and 97 percent protected after the second shot.”

But what if you don’t know your vaccine status?

One option is to check your immunity. This involves going to the doctor, having your blood drawn and sent to a lab, waiting for the results and usually having another appointment with your doctor.

The quicker and cheaper option is to simply get another measles vaccine. At the same time, you can make sure you’re up to date on all recommended vaccines. Your primary care provider can help you stay on top of what you need based on your entire medical history.

Steps to protect you and your family

If you and your family have been vaccinated, you’re pretty safe from contracting measles even during an outbreak. If you’re not vaccinated, call your primary care provider to arrange to get your vaccinations updated.

If you’re susceptible to measles due to lack of immunity or having a compromised immune system, avoid crowds of people such as churches and busy shopping areas. Keep an eye on the latest details about the current outbreak and exposure locations by visiting Clark County Public Health’s measles investigation page. Parents of infants too young to be vaccinated should be especially cautious.

If you think you may have measles

Though a rash is the classic sign of measles, the infection actually begins much like an average illness. Early symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Sore throat, sometimes with tiny white spots appearing in the mouth in two or three days

It’s only after three to five days of symptoms that the measles rash appears.

If you suspect you may have measles, don’t head to the doctor or emergency room. “Do not go anywhere,” Johnson says. “Call your doctor for advice on if you require treatment.” Patients with Adventist Health primary care providers can also reach out via MyChart.

Because measles is caused by a virus, there’s no treatment for the disease. But you should be in touch with your primary care doctor, who will help you keep an eye out for any complications, such as pneumonia or ear infection, that may need treatment.

If your provider needs to see you for a complication, you’ll need to wear a mask and make arrangements to enter the clinic through an infectious entrance. This helps protect other patients from exposure.

Your next steps to stay healthy

Whether there’s an outbreak or not, it’s always a good idea to practice illness-avoiding habits like:

  • Washing hands regularly
  • Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Getting a solid sleep every night
  • Being physically active at least 30 minutes each day

Having an ongoing relationship with your primary care provider can also help you stay ahead of illness. If you need a primary care provider who cares about the whole you — body, mind and spirit — call Adventist Health Portland at (503) 261-6929. You can begin your personal health partnership with one of our providers as soon as today or tomorrow.