Hospitals trying to screen potential measles patients to thwart contamination

Hospitals trying to screen potential measles patients to thwart contamination (PHOTO: KOMO News)

Jennifer Murray rolled her double stroller into her Kent pediatrician’s office Wednesday on a mission.

“I’m here for the MMR vaccine,” she told office staff.

The Burien woman said it was the earliest her 14-month-old, Esmé, could get her second dose of the MMR, measles, mumps and rubella, vaccine. Esmé and her big sister, who is 16 months older, had their shots back-to-back at UW Medicine’s Kent/Des Moines clinic.

“I don’t want to have to quarantine them, but at the same time, if other people can’t be responsible and keep their kids out of the general public then I have no choice,” Murray said.

There have been 50 confirmed cases of the measles in Washington this year. One involves a 50-year-old in King County and the rest in Clark County, on the southwest border of the state.

Dr. Nicole Johnson, a pediatrician at UW Medicine’s Kent/Des Moines clinic, said in the weeks since the measles outbreak began her office has been inundated by families coming in to vaccinate their children.

“Families that, maybe, didn’t consider vaccinations in the past taking a second look and saying ‘I think this would be a great thing to do to protect my child’,” Johnson said.

She said the clinic has also had a slew of calls from people wanting to vaccinate their children before the recommended age of 12 months. Johnson said that’s not something pediatricians are doing yet, but said that could change if the outbreak grows.

Both UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s are doing their best to screen potential measles patients quickly, even before they arrive, to thwart the incredibly contagious illness from spreading through hospitals and clinics.

“When we get those calls, my child has a rash or a fever, absolutely we’re taking those a lot more seriously,” Johnson said.

At Seattle Children’s staff are now asking parents and their children if they have traveled to Portland or Clark County in the last 30 days. If they have, they are asked if they’ve had a “fever; rash; eye redness, drainage or infection; runny nose; or cough.”

If the answer is yes to those questions staff are asked to put the person in a “negative air room.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the MMR vaccine is given to children 12 months through 12 years in age. The CDC recommends two doses of the vaccine, one at 12 to 15 months in age, the second between the ages of four and six.

Murray said she wasn’t waiting any longer for her daughters to receive their second MMR dose.

“I’d prefer not to deal with both kids with measles,” she said. “It’s more effective at preventing measles if you get the second dose.”

Murray said she knows people who refuse to vaccinate, but said that’s not the right decision for her family.

“I just feel if I can be the best parent out there and do something that’s seeming to work for how many years? I feel like that’s what I should do,” she said.

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