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Lane County measles carrier speaks out

Experts with PeaceHealth said that the lesson here is to ensure that you are fully vaccinated.

Posted: Oct 28, 2019 6:57 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- As Lane County health officials look for people who may have been exposed to measles at four area restaurants, the woman who caught the virus on an international flight is speaking out about why community members should be checking their immunization records.

Roxanne Wiergeland said she was raised in a family that didn't believe in vaccines. It wasn't until she was an adult that she got her first measles vaccine. However, she said she was never told to get a booster shot. Two doses of measles vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. One dose is about 93% effective.

On Oct. 12, Wiergeland and her husband saw a visibly sick person at the airport on the way home from an international trip, she said. She sat rows away from him on the plane.

Ten days later, she was contacted by health officials who said she may have been exposed to measles. By then, she was already showing symptoms and had visited several area restaurants where people may have been exposed.

"I didn't believe it could possibly happen to me. When I had a low-grade fever, I thought, 'Oh no, this isn't what this is.' And sure enough, it happened," she said.

RELATED: FOUR LANE COUNTY BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY LATEST MEASLES OUTBREAK

Lane County Public Health warns that unvaccinated people who visited the following restaurants at these times could be infected.

  • Monday, October 21
    • 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Creswell Bakery, 182 S. 2nd St., Creswell
    • 12:00 p.m. to 4 p.m., Bier Stein, 1591 Willamette St., Eugene
  • Wednesday, October 23
    • 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Blu Mist, 1400 Valley River Dr., Suite 130, Eugene
    • 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., North Fork Public House, 2805 Shadowview Dr., Eugene

According to experts, measles is spread through the air when a carrier coughs or sneezes. Once it's there, 9 out of 10 unprotected people around them will get the virus up to two hours after the infected person has left. The restaurants have been safe to visit since the hours after their exposure. 

Lane County Senior Public Health Official Dr. Patrick Luedtke said that officials are actively looking for people who may have been exposed to the virus, in some cases checking the restaurant's credit card records to identify those who are at risk.

"I don't think we are going to see a thousand cases, but it could be we see a few dozen if things don't go in our favor," he said.

Experts with PeaceHealth said that the lesson here is to ensure that you are fully vaccinated. 

"The most important thing for (the community) is that they are looking at their immunization records and that if they haven't had two immunizations that they are going to their health care provider and getting that vaccination so they can be protected. Now is the time. You don't want to wait until we have multiple cases in the community," said director of infection prevention Catherine Kroll.

If you believe you may have been exposed and are not vaccinated, call ahead to your clinic or hospital before visiting in order to protect others.

Wiergeland is still experiencing symptoms. She said it may be days before she is able to leave her home. 

"Today I have a 100-degree temperature and I'm covered with spots. I think it took about two days for the rash to start. It started around the back of the neck, to the cheeks and down the chest and arms," she said.

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