Measles in Lane County
A call for community response
By Dr. Sarah Hendrickson
Protecting the community’s health is a responsibility shouldered by county public health nurses each and every day. As a community, we all share that same responsibility.
Lane County Public Health is waging a battle against an outbreak of measles and each of you plays an important role in how this unfolds.
An extensive investigation is under way to identify people who may have had contact with the individuals who have measles and to determine their immune status. Public Health epidemiologists have been investigating possible contact points and want to hear from those who were at the following locations at the specified times:
• If you were at the Brother Ali concert at the WOW Hall on Tuesday, May 29, after 10 pm, you have been exposed to measles.
• Flew into Eugene on United flight 6406 from San Francisco on Tuesday, May 22.
• Were at Safeway on 18th between 6 and 7 pm (in flowers and check out only) on Tuesday, May 22.
• Went to Sundance Natural Food Store between 6:35 and 6:50 pm Sunday, May 27.
• Went to Jameson’s bar downtown between midnight and 2 am on the morning of Wednesday May 30, following the WOW Hall concert.
• Went to the Sushi Station on 5th Avenue on the evening of Wednesday, May 30.
Measles can be very dangerous for young babies and children, people who have problems with their immune systems, folks with transplants, or chemotherapy for cancer, who are taking steroids for other medical conditions, or who are living with HIV and other diseases.
These people look just like the rest of us, and you can’t tell who whose lives might be threatened by measles.
If you were at any of these places, PLEASE, find out if you are protected against measles. Do you have evidence that you have had two measles vaccinations? Are you older than age 50 and know for sure that you had measles?
If you don’t know, an easy blood test will tell if you are immune. Your private medical practitioner can do this test. If you don’t have a medical home, call Lane County Public Health at 682-4041 (press 1, then 1 again) to talk to a nurse.
If you are not immune to measles, you can spread the measles virus before you know that you are sick. You may get sick and feel awful; you will probably recover just fine, but you are a life-threatening danger to other people.
If you are have never had measles shots, or don’t know if you have had the shots, and you were at the Brother Ali concert or any of these places
PLEASE, stay out of public places until 21 days after your exposure.
GO HOME NOW. STAY HOME.
Help up protect our friends and neighbors who might get very sick or die from complications of measles.
Measles is usually an uncomfortable but not deadly disease. There have been no cases of measles in Lane County since 1990, but there have been cases every year in Oregon.
Many people don’t think measles is a “big deal.” And we at Public Health hope that this outbreak won’t be more serious. But this disease can kill, and it IS a big deal if you, or your child, or your neighbor with immune problems catches measles and ends up hospitalized, or ends up dead, from this completely preventable disease.
You have a legal right in Oregon to refuse immunizations for religious or philosophical reasons. But folks who do not get vaccinations also have a corresponding legal obligation not to spread a vaccine-preventable illness to folks in our community who are vulnerable to infection.
Dear people, we are all in this sea of humanity together, whatever our personal religion or philosophy. We all need to help each other to protect our healthy, diverse, wonderful community.
Dr. Sarah Hendrickson is a family doctor who had a private practice in Lane County for more than two decades. She’s been the Lane County Public Health officer since 1999.