In late January, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in Washington because of a measles outbreak in Clark County. There was also one reported case of measles in King county. February’s Ask Nancy provides some clear guidance on what schools can do and highlights what the DOH is already doing to protect our communities from a measles outbreak.
How contagious is measles and what are the signs of infection?
Measles is very contagious and dangerous, especially for young children and babies. It’s still in the air 2 hours after an infected person leaves an area. Measles is so contagious that 9 out of 10 people who have not developed the immunity will get infected if exposed to the disease.
Measles starts with a fever, red eyes, cough and runny nose. About 3 days later, a red rash starts on the face and spreads down the body. It can be deadly.
You can catch measles from an infected person as early as 4 days before they have a rash and for up to 4 days after the rash appears.
What can schools do?
Inform parents their children need to be vaccinated to avoid measles and to be able to remain in school in the event of an outbreak.
Spread the word in your school that MMR vaccination protects children, babies who can’t yet be vaccinated, and other vulnerable people. Schools know If the child’s proof of vaccination is not on file, so can urge parents to get their child vaccinated.
MMR vaccine is recommended for:
- Babies and children, who need two doses:
- The first dose at age 12 through 15 months
- The second dose at 4 through 6 years
- 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.
What are health departments doing?
The Washington State Department of Health created a database where you can check immunization records online and print school certificates: https://wa.myir.net/
If a child in your school is diagnosed with measles, the local health jurisdiction will require the school to exclude unvaccinated students from school. Unvaccinated children will not be able to attend school until the parent can provide proof of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination or the outbreak ends.
State and local health departments work with schools and health care providers to increase vaccination rates. Our goal is community immunity, achieved with 95% rates.
- Clark County outbreak updates: HERE
King County Measles updates: HERE
Skagit County Schools Measles Tool-Kit for Schools
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has an infographic in seven languages at www.tpchd.org/measles.
- The Center For Disease Control offers additional info on the disease and spread of outbreaks: HERE