Seattle Times staff reporter
The number of measles cases in King County continues to grow. A woman in her 30s is the seventh recently confirmed measles case in the Puget Sound region and the fourth person in the county to contract the virus this month.
She likely came in contact with the virus at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. Before the woman knew she was sick, she was at the Hudson Alki Bakery Store outside of security checkpoints on the ticketing level near the B gate exit on May 10, 11, 12 and 13. On May 14 and 15, she was in Renton at Valley Family Medicine, 3915 Talbot Road S., Suite 401.
The recent cases of measles in King County are likely connected to a person with measles who was at the airport on the morning of April 25. There isn’t currently an increased risk of contracting measles at Sea-Tac Airport, according to a news release from Public Health.
You can check Public Health’s website at kingcounty.gov/health to see a list of places that people with measles went before seeking medical attention.
A Pierce County man was diagnosed with measles May 12, and four other Western Washington residents were confirmed to have measles May 15.
Issaquah High School was closed May 16 so school officials could confirm employees’ immunization records after a staff member was diagnosed with measles. Eleven teachers and 20 students won’t be allowed back until May 31 because they haven’t been vaccinated or can’t prove that they have been vaccinated, according to the Issaquah School District. After a student at Bothell’s North Creek High School contracted the virus, 10 students are being kept away from campus until June 3.
Measles was thought to have been eradicated in the United States in 2000. The virus has surged back recently in the United States and around the world. As of Friday, 880 cases of measles have been confirmed in the U.S. so far this year, the greatest number since 1994, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The King County measles cases popped up shortly after officials in Clark County declared an end to an outbreak that began Jan. 3 and infected 71 people there. Most of the Clark County cases occurred in children who were not immunized. During the Clark County outbreak, one case was reported in King County.
The Washington state Legislature responded to the Clark County outbreak by limiting exemptions for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination. The new law, which takes effect in July, doesn’t allow parents to opt their children out of the MMR vaccine for personal or philosophical reasons.
Health-care professionals and people who study vaccinations say that laws allowing fewer exemptions are an important tool in fighting measles and getting a population to what is called herd immunity — meaning at least 95% of the population is vaccinated, thus protecting people who can’t be immunized because they are younger than 1 year old or have health issues that don’t allow for immunization.