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PLU Response to Measles Outbreak

Information about measles outbreak in Washington State

May 16, 2019

Dear PLU Community,

By now you may have read or heard that on May 11th, the first case of measles in Pierce County was diagnosed and that a second case in Pierce County was confirmed as of May 15. In addition, two cases were confirmed in King County and one in Snohomish County. While we have no indication at this point that any further cases have been diagnosed in our county, the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department has stated that exposures in the community as a result of these cases occurred between May 6 and May 15. They would expect cases from these exposures to occur between May 13 and June 5, 2019. We must remember that measles is a highly contagious disease that is airborne and may spread through contact as infected people travel from place to place.

Tacoma Pierce County Public Health currently is using the following webpage to provide updated information and guidance to individuals living in the area:

www.tpchd.org/measles

In particular, Public Health is providing the following advice about prevention and encouraging individuals who have not been immunized for measles via the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine (MMR) to consider receiving the vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best protection against measles is to get vaccinated. The Vaccine Finder found on the Tacoma Pierce County Public Health information page lists local options for securing the MMR vaccine, including Walgreens and Rite Aid. In addition, PLU students may secure the MMR vaccine through PLU’s Health Center free of charge. Vaccinations are provided on a walk-in basis during the Health Center’s regular hours (8-5 p.m., including lunch hours, on weekdays). PLU employees and their dependents with insurance plans through PLU may secure no-cost vaccines at any Kaiser location. Another option for assurance of protection is to have a simple blood test that determines level of immunity to measles. We would encourage a conversation about this with your health care provider. If your immunity level (titer) is low, a booster vaccine would be recommended.

Other disease prevention strategies for the measles are similar to those for the flu. Community members are encouraged to wash hands regularly and to respond to early symptoms of the measles by limiting contact with others and using a mask when traveling or securing healthcare. Symptoms of the measles usually appear in two stages. First, the person develops a fever, runny nose and cough. After about three days, a raised, red spotty rash develops. The rash starts on the face and spreads downward, covering the body, arms and legs. Symptoms usually appear about eight to 12 days after exposure.

As needed, we will provide updates to this communication and share advice from Tacoma Pierce County Public Health regarding ongoing response. For immediate questions, please contact your health care provider, Tacoma Pierce County Public Health at 253-798-6410 or the PLU Health Center at X7337.

Thank you,

Joanna Royce-Davis, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Life

Teri Phillips, Associate Vice President of Human Resources