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A person with a confirmed case of measles visited a local hospital emergency room and spent time in a Gresham child care center in late June, possibly exposing vulnerable people to the illness.

COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, seen here talking to the media during an Eagle Creek Fire briefing, warned Monday, July 2, that hundreds of Portland-area residents could have been exposed to measles in late June.Multnomah County health officials warned Monday that 500 Portland-area residents could have been exposed to measles during the past week.

The Health Department's Communicable Disease Services team is monitoring about 40 people who may have been exposed and are not likely to be immune to the disease. No other cases have been reported.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County deputy health officer, told reporters July 2 that on Wednesday, June 27, a person with a confirmed case of measles visited a local hospital emergency room and spent time in a Gresham child care center, possibly exposing vulnerable people to the illness.

Vines said that measles was a serious disease that was nearly eliminated in the United States through routine childhood vaccination. It's a highly contagious disease that starts with a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a red rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body. People are contagious with measles for four days before the rash appears, and up to four days after the rash appears.

Complications include ear infection, lung infection or diarrhea. Swelling of the brain is a rare but much more serious complication. People who have not been immunized, pregnant women, children younger than 12 months and people with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to the illness.

"When we see measles today, it is rare and usually the result of a person who was unknowingly infected while traveling outside the United States," Vines said.

The chances of locals contracting the illness is low — as many have been vaccinated against the disease — so public health officials believe that symptoms would be seen in mid-July if any other people have been infected.

Until symptoms are visible, the Multnomah County Health Department along with Adventist Health Portland, the child care center and others will notify people who were in the same area as the affected person. Clackamas County has also been notified.

Officials are asking anyone who has been exposed to measles to call their primary care medical provider or their local county health department:

• Clackamas County Public Health, 503-655-8411.

• Clark County, Washington, Public Health, 360-397-8182.

• Multnomah County Public Health, 503-988-3406.

Nisma Chauhan is a subeditor at The Express Tribune, Karachi, Pakistan. She wrote this story while serving at the Portland Tribune through the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism program. Follow her on Twitter at @ChauhanNisma.

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