Missoula Prepares for First Measles Epidemic in 20 Years
A measles outbreak that appears to have started at Disneyland in California has spread north, and has now been diagnosed in at least one state bordering Montana. Missoula City-County Health Department Health Officer Ellen Leahy says the county is attempting to prepare staff for a disease that hasn’t had a major outbreak in decades.
"We are certainly answering a lot more public questions," Leahy said. "We have regular infectious disease control meetings, and at our last one we reviewed the CDC guidance for measles. We do have some very young and wonderful staff here that have not been involved with trying to control exposure to measles, so we tried to emphasize how very contagious it is."
If a person with measles coughs and leaves a room, the virus can still spread from droplets left in the air, a feat that few, if any other viruses can boast. The speed and ease of transmission is a major concern to health departments.
"We are just all on guard right now, because we know how fast it spreads," Leahy said. "I mean, look at this spread... it's in what, I think 14 states already? For me, on the domestic front, it is the most contagious disease that we've had to deal with and we haven't had to deal with it here in this department for... gosh... 20 years.
Measles is a preventable disease and the Missoula City-County Health Department has Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccinations on hand. Leahy advises the public to get vaccinated before word of an outbreak occurs.