It’s the last day for anyone exposed to measles at the Portland International Airport on Saturday to get the “just-in-time” medication to help stop the virus, Multnomah County Public Health warns.
A passenger on an international flight was sick with the measles when they arrived in Portland on Saturday, according to a news release. The county said it is most concerned with the virus spreading to people who have no immunity and who were in the airport’s international arrivals concourse and passed through immigration and passport control between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Infants, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems who were possibly exposed should get a shot of immunoglobulin, a medicine made from donor plasma that carries antibodies to infections like measles. It can help stave off sickness in vulnerable people, according to Multnomah County health experts.
But the shot is only good for six days after exposure — and that sixth day is Friday. Non-immune infants, non-immune pregnant women and other people without immunity should seek it out. Individuals can get the shot through a primary care physician, and most emergency rooms have it available, too.
While the greatest risk is to those people who were in the immediate vicinity of the passenger, the passenger did take a bus from the concourse to exit it, possibly exposing others, Multnomah County spokeswoman Kate Willson said.
Multnomah County officials declined to say what flight the passenger was on or which country the passenger was traveling from, saying it would be a breach of medical confidentiality.
Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines and Communicable Diseases Manager Lisa Ferguson answered questions about the exposure risks via email.
They said the county has been working with the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control to contact the people who were exposed on the flight, making sure they are immune and know what to do if they fall ill.
Measles is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and people can’t spread measles until they are sick with symptoms, they said, although the virus can linger in the air for up to two hours.
So far, no new cases of measles linked to the airport exposure have been reported.
“It takes about seven to 10 days for someone who is exposed and non-immune to start showing symptoms, so we would not expect to see new cases, if any, until early next week,” Ferguson wrote.
Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, which is followed with a rash that often starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.
People with measles are contagious when the first feel symptoms to four days after the measles rash appears.
So far this year, there have been four separate measles outbreaks leading to cases in Multnomah County, with 15 measles cases in the county, including this week’s.
Although the MMR vaccine is effective for all strains of measles, there has been a resurgence in cases and outbreaks, with 2019 marking the most cases in Oregon since 1991.
— Emily Goodykoontz; 503-221-6652