October 17, 2019

An individual who passed through the Portland International Airport midday on Saturday, Oct. 12, has been diagnosed with measles. This case brings the county’s total measles cases this year to 15, the most since 1991.

The individual recently spent time in countries where measles is common and had not been immunized against the virus.

Most people have been vaccinated against measles and are considered protected.  Risk of illness is higher for unvaccinated persons who may have been exposed at:

Officials are concerned about anyone who spent time in international arrivals and passed through immigration and passport control during that time period. People who spent time in other areas of the airport during that time are considered to be at very low risk.

“This individual hasn’t exposed anyone else since arriving in Portland,” said Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Jenifer Vines. “They have been in close touch with the health department and have been careful to stay away from others.”

A person is considered immune to measles if ANY of the following apply:

  • They were born before 1957.

  • Their physician has diagnosed them with measles.

  • A blood test proves that they are immune.

  • They have been fully vaccinated against measles (one dose for children 12 months through 3 years old, two doses in anyone 4 years and older).

Anyone in the following groups who is not immune who spent time at the airport during the exposure period can get a just-in-time shot of medicine called immunoglobulin that may keep them from getting sick:

  • Infants

  • Pregnant women

  • People with weakened immune systems 

Those individuals should contact their health care provider to arrange for treatment by the end of the day Friday, Oct 18.

Anyone who thinks they are sick with measles should call ahead to their medical office. Having an entry plan is important to avoid exposing others in waiting rooms and lobbies.

About Measles

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes. The virus can also linger in the air for up to two hours after someone who is infectious has left.

Measles poses the highest risk to unvaccinated pregnant women, infants under 12 months of age, and people with weakened immune systems.

The symptoms of measles usually start seven to 10 days after exposure, with a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a rash that usually begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Complications of measles include ear infection, lung infection, and diarrhea. Swelling of the brain is a rare but much more serious complication.

People are contagious from the time they start feeling sick until 4 days after the rash started.

“Measles is a miserable disease and it’s entirely preventable,” Vines said. “We strongly encourage people to get up-to-date on their vaccines, especially if they plan to travel abroad or host visitors from overseas.”

Questions?

Anyone with questions about measles infection or the measles vaccine should call their primary care provider or their local county health department:

  • Multnomah County Public Health: 503-988-3406

  • Washington County Public Health: 503-846-3594

  • Clackamas County Public Health: 503-655-8411

  • Clark County Public Health: 564-397-8182