Measles Outbreaks in Washington – What it means for Kittitas County Residents
We’re breaking records in 2019, but not in a good way.
As of the middle of May, the U.S. has seen over two hundred more cases of measles so far than it has in any year in over two decades. Health professionals have reported 78 cases in Washington State alone.
Even though measles was declared eliminated from the U. S. in 2000, we still remain susceptible to the virus through travel to and from countries where it is still actively spreading.
What is measles?
Measles is a serious, highly contagious viral disease.
Common initial symptoms are a:
high fever (can be as high as 104 F or higher)
red, watery eyes
These are followed in a few days by white spots inside the mouth. The measles rash develops within a week, beginning on the face.
Measles is far more than an uncomfortable rash, especially for:
Children younger than 5 years of age
Adults older than 20 years of age
People with compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia or HIV infection
The CDC reports that:
How contagious is it?
Measles is extremely contagious. General scientific thought is that one contagious person can potentially infect up to18 other people, however, some epidemiologists believe a person could spread the virus to as many as 60 people.
See the graph below to view the difference between how fast measles spreads compared with other serious illnesses.
How is it spread?
The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat and is spread by coughing or sneezing. It can remain in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after a contagious person leaves. Up to 90% of non-immune people exposed to the virus will contract it. An infected person can unknowingly spread the disease before symptoms begin.
What should I do to protect myself and my child?
The most effective method of prevention against measles is vaccination. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, visit https://wa.myir.net/ to view your Washington State vaccination records.
Per Washington State Department of Health, the MMR vaccine is recommended for:
Babies and children, who need two doses, one at 12 to 15 months and the second at 4 to 6 years
If your family is traveling overseas, babies and children may need to have their doses earlier. Talk to your healthcare provider before you travel.
Adults born after 1957.
People at higher risk of getting these diseases, such as healthcare workers, college students, and international travelers.
MMR is particularly important for women who may get pregnant because rubella can cause serious birth defects. You cannot get the MMR vaccine during pregnancy.
If measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, why do I still need a vaccine?
Elimination of a disease means we have no "home-grown" cases. Any cases in the U.S. can be traced to importation of the illness from another country.
Someday, we hope to see measles become eradicated, like small pox. Eradication occurs when no new cases are reported world-wide.
Watch Making a Disease Disappear (a TED Talk at the CDC)
For more information on measles and prevention, visit
To learn about the history of the virus, visit:
Current information on outbreaks in Washington can be found here: