BILLINGS – RiverStone Health, Yellowstone County’s public health agency, is working with school districts to contact parents of children who are not immunized against measles and mumps.
In a press release issued Thursday, the agency said the move was the result of the serious measles outbreak in Washington state and an outbreak of mumps in Bozeman.
The effort is being undertaken through the Unified Health Command, which includes Billings Clinic, RiverStone Health and St. Vincent Healthcare.
The press release states RiverStone Health “wants to ensure all students are protected against these vaccine-preventable diseases and that parents and guardians of unvaccinated children are aware of the consequences that an outbreak of measles or mumps might have on their child’s attendance at school and at school events.”
At this time, there are no measles cases in Montana and no mumps cases in Yellowstone County.
“When there’s a possibility of a disease outbreak, public health and our hospital partners take precautions to lessen the risk to Yellowstone County residents,” said John Felton, Yellowstone County Health Officer and President & CEO of RiverStone Health.
The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) or MMRV (combined measles, mumps, rubella, varicella for chickenpox) vaccine provides the best protection against measles and mumps, the agency states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all students get two doses of the vaccine, except if they have a medical exemption.
The press release states both vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing measles and mumps. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97 percent effective against measles and about 88 percent effective against mumps.
If there were confirmed cases of measles or mumps in any Yellowstone County school, RiverStone Health may take actions under state law to protect both vaccinated and unvaccinated children. If there were an outbreak at a school, children in that school may be affected in the following way:
If a child does not have at least one dose of the MMR or MMRV, the child may be excluded from school and school activities for 21 or more days after the last exposure to a measles or mumps case at his or her school.
- If a child gets at least one dose of MMR or MMRV during an outbreak, the child may return to school.
- If a child has two doses of MMR or MMRV, the child is up-to-date with required measles vaccination and can attend school as usual.
Area school districts are receiving a letter from RiverStone Health instructing them to forward it to parents of unvaccinated children. The letter urges parents to protect their children against measles and mumps through vaccination and provides guidance on how to do so. Background information about measles and mumps accompanies the letter.
The RiverStone Health walk-in immunization clinic is open Monday and Friday from 1-4:30 p.m. and Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Additionally, a special MMR and MMRV immunization clinic will be held on Saturday, March 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If available, the child’s immunization record should be brought to the immunization clinic. If parents or guardians are unsure of their child’s immunization status, they should contact the child’s healthcare provider.
Immunization against measles and mumps can also be obtained through the child’s healthcare provider.
The cost of immunizations should never be a reason for choosing not to vaccinate children. Under the federal Vaccines for Children program, eligible children, through age 18, can receive vaccines at no cost beyond an administration fee.