County health officials Thursday said they are investigating a suspected case of measles in Cowlitz County in an individual who was recently vaccinated. However, officials say it’s highly unlikely the patient will test positive for the illness.

“It’s much more likely it’s a vaccine rash,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, interim county health officer.

About 5 percent of previously vaccinated people will develop a rash after being immunized, Melnick said. That’s because the immunization uses a weakened, live virus to help the body recognize and learn how to fight off the measles virus.

The vaccine rash and virus is not contagious, Melnick said. Apart from the possibility of a slight fever, the vaccine rash causes no other health complications, he said.

The county health department is sending samples to a lab to determine whether the patient’s rash is caused by the harmless vaccine virus or the actual measles. Melnick expects to have the final results of those tests within the next week, he said.

The suspected case does not appear to be linked to the measles outbreak in Clark County, according to a health department news release.

“We don’t have any evidence there is measles circulating in Cowlitz County, so I don’t want people to panic over this. We are doing this at an abundance of caution,” Melnick said.

Additionally, the health department is treating this as if it were a confirmed case to protect those who may have been exposed, on the off-chance the rash is measles-related, Melnick said. That includes releasing the following list of possible exposure times and locations:

  • 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 5 at the Child and Adolescent Clinic, 971 11th Ave. in Longview.
  • 11:45 p.m. March 9 to 3:30 a.m. March 10 at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center Emergency Department, 1615 Delaware St. in Longview.

Anyone who was at a suspected location and believes they have symptoms of measles is encouraged to call their healthcare provider prior to visiting the medical office. People who believe they have measles-related symptoms should not go directly to medical offices, urgent care centers or emergency departments without calling in advance.

Symptoms of measles include a rash that usually begins in the face and spreads to other parts of the body. About three to five days before the rash appears, a patient can experience high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

The best protection from the measles is the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, Melnick said.

The vaccine can also prevent measles in unvaccinated individuals who came into contact with the disease, within 72 hours of exposure, Melnick said.

“It’s incredibly cheap, safe and effective.”

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