A state of emergency has been declared in Washington State due to a measles outbreak, and the Lincoln County Health Department is encouraging Lincoln County residents to take precautions to avoid contracting or spreading the disease.
However, Trista Gilmore, Lincoln County Public Health Nurse, said that there are other diseases that are more of a concern for Lincoln County residents than the measles virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, measles is highly contagious and can linger in the air for up to two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Some symptoms may take hours or days to show up, but by that time the infected person has already gone about their daily routine, possibly spreading the infection.
The best protection against the measles is vaccination, said Gilmore.
“I do think the state is doing a really good job trying to prepare for it,” Gilmore said. “They are sending out information on signs and symptoms and trying to get ahold of those who are affected.”
As of press time no cases have been reported in Lincoln County. The CDC states that even if someone has been vaccinated it is possible to contract the disease. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93 percent effective, and a second dose raises that to about 97 percent.
The CDC states there is no need for a booster vaccination. Two doses of the vaccine as a child is enough.
Not just measles
According to Gilmore, she is not worried about the measles outbreak in Lincoln County as much as other diseases that are already prevalent here.
“I am personally more worried about Respiratory Syncytial Virus infection and influenza in Lincoln County,” said Gilmore. “As well as those usual busy things like Hepatitis C and STD’s.”
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but it can be serious, especially in infants and older adults. Gilmore said the RSV started in preschool-aged children and has now been found in older children.
RSV is widespread in the county already, said Gilmore. She suggested parents keep their homes clean, but the number one rule is to keep sick children at home.
“Hygiene is always a big thing: cover your sneeze, cover your cough,” said Gilmore.
Gilmore said she understands some parents cannot miss work due to a child being sick, and she wishes employers would understand the urgency when it comes to children needing to stay home to avoid spreading infections.
Gilmore said by email that the Lincoln County Health Department does have vaccines available for both those with and those without insurance. The health department is located on the second floor of 408 Mineral Avenue, Libby, in the County Annex.
If someone thinks they have been exposed to the measles virus, they should not go to the emergency room, as they could possibly contaminate someone else. That person should call their doctor and let them know they have been exposed.
If someone thinks they are showing symptoms of the measles, the same should be done. A doctor will make arrangements to examine the individual without putting other people in danger.
The Measles, Mumps and Rubella shot — or MMR vaccination — is given to children as part of their regular vaccination series.
Washington State and Montana are both personal belief exemption states, meaning parents can opt out of having their children vaccinated due to personal beliefs.
If anyone would like more information on the spreading of, or protection from, measles, they are encouraged to contact their family physician.
The CDC reports there are certain people who are immune to the measles virus. The CDC considers an individual protected from the measles if they can prove they have had at least one of the following symptoms:
·They have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine and are a school aged child or adult who will be in a setting that poses a high-risk for measles transmission, including students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers
·They have received one dose of measles-containing vaccine and are a preschool aged child or adult who will not be in a high-risk setting for measles transmission
· A laboratory confirmed one has had measles at some point in their life
· A laboratory confirmed one is immune to the measles
·One was born before 1957