First measles case in at least 6 years reported in Pierce County

An infant exposed to measles at a Tacoma hospital is the first confirmed case of the disease in Pierce County in at least six years, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said Thursday.

The case is connected to eight confirmed cases being investigated in South King County, all among members of the same extended family, officials said.

The infant, infected at the emergency department of Mary Bridge Children's Hospital and Health Center, is not part of that family, said Pierce Health Department spokeswoman Edie Jeffers.

Investigators believe the child was exposed when members of the infected family went there for treatment, she said.

Jeffers said she could release no information about the child's condition, age or gender, except to say the baby was too young to have been immunized for measles.

“It’s a seriously contagious disease,” Jeffers said, adding that infants are especially susceptible because they are not vaccinated in the first months after birth.

Babies generally get their first measles vaccine when they are between 12 and 15 months old, and those in contact with infants need to be vaccinated to protect them, Jeffers said.

Before this outbreak, 15 cases of the disease had been confirmed in Washington State as of May 30.

Nationally, more than 514 cases have been reported this year as of June 20, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the worst year-to-date count since 1994.

MultiCare Health Systems said five of the eight people originally infected in the King County outbreak went to their facilities for treatment, and might have exposed others at the Mary Bridge emergency department June 11.

They also might have infected people at:

Staff members are contacting people who might have been exposed, MultiCare said.

The cases are connected to a person who returned to the United States from the Pacific Islands with measles May 26, according to the King and Pierce County health departments.

“Now is a good time to confirm whether or not you’ve been vaccinated for measles or have had measles previously,” the health departments said in a joint statement.

Staff reporter Steve Maynard and McClatchy contributed to this report.