The measles outbreak across the nation is growing, but so far, Montana has been spared, however, health officials are keeping watch for any cases that may appear.

Pamela Whitney is a registered nurse at the Missoula City County Health Department, and says Montana health officials are pursuing ‘active surveillance’.

“So far, we have had no cases of the measles, but we are doing ‘active surveillance’, said Whitney. “We have all of our providers looking to pick up on that first case. What we’re nervous about are the cases in Washington State and in Oregon and those cases grew and grew. These people were not vaccinated, and so we got real concerned because I-90 runs through Missoula and we were worried that we might start seeing cases in Montana, but so far, we haven’t.”

Whitney credits the health departments in Washington and Oregon by vaccinating the people most at risk, however there are now measles cases appearing in other states.

Whitney said there will always be people, for one reason or another, who refuse to be vaccinated themselves, or have their children vaccinated, so she identified a strategy to keep others safe.

“We call in ‘herd immunity’,” she said. “We need 95 percent of the people around those who cannot or will not be vaccinated, therefore creating protection from the people who have not been vaccinated.”

Whitney said today’s vaccines are safe for adults and children.

“Vaccines have been around for hundreds of years and they have been scientifically proven to work,” she said. “Many superstitions have been debunked, for instance that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines cause autism and that has been proven to be not true. All the single dose vials we have a preservative free, and the government does not ‘chip’ these vaccines.”

Whitney said measles starts with a high fever, red watery eyes, and a rash that begins on the head and spreads to the arms and torso, and a fever can reach as high as 104 degrees.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might have measles should call their healthcare provider before they visit, because the disease is highly contagious.

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