(CNN) — Washington state health officials have issued a warning to anyone who may have been in the vicinity of a particular woman at the end of March: You may have been exposed to measles, a highly contagious and potentially fatal respiratory disease.
Privacy laws prevent them from showing you the woman’s picture or telling you her name, so they’re trying another tack: they’re telling you where she’s been.
The Department of Health posted where she was virtually every hour of the day between March 26, when she became contagious, and March 29, so that you can determine whether you are at risk and possibly need medical attention.
“I’ve seen it happen pretty regularly when it comes to significant infectious disease circumstances,” agency spokesman Tim Church said Tuesday when asked whether this was a unique approach to quelling a public health crisis before it starts.
“What’s unique is the extent of the schedule this person had while ill,” he told CNN.
The 20-something Whatcom County woman didn’t seem to be slowed a bit by the infectious disease. She kept a schedule that would be the envy of any healthy bon vivant.
On Friday, March 28, for example, after working from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the at the Lynden Dutch Bakery (home of the “world’s best scones” according to its website”), she made a stop at Lynden Wine and Spirits before checking into the Best Western in downtown Seattle at 7:15 p.m. She then took in the Kings of Leon concert at Key Arena — about a 20-minute walk from the hotel — until midnight.
She kept the party going at a place called Wasabi Bistro until 3 a.m. before finally heading back to her hotel. The next day was spent traipsing around like an energetic tourist: lunch in Pike Place Market, then south to Tacoma to take in the LeMay car museum and a visit to a place called the Celebrity Cake Studio before bellying up at Harmon Brewing Co. and Eatery in Pierce County.
Measles is so highly contagious that you can get it by simply walking into a room where someone with it had been hours before — which is why her attending the concert is a concern.
“This wasn’t a local bar,” Church said. “It was a major concert at a major venue.”
Even though most people in Washington state are vaccinated — 96% statewide by 6th grade — Key Arena holds 15,000 people for concerts, signifying the potential for exposure, given some concertgoers may have been from out of state.
“It’s a serious illness,” said Church. “Measles has a way of finding those who are not vaccinated.”
There have been no linked reported cases thus far, according to Church. “It’s still early.”
The department says the woman became contagious with measles on March 26 after visiting a local family member with measles linked to an outbreak in British Columbia. Fraser Health, the health authority in British Columbia, confirms 375 cases of measles as of April 8.
Church would not pinpoint when the woman was diagnosed, only that it occurred between March 29 and April 2, when the agency posted her schedule online.
“Anyone who was in those locations at the listed times should find out if they have been vaccinated for measles or have had measles previously,” the agency said. Those who aren’t and “develop an illness with fever or unexplained rash should consult a health care professional immediately.”
As for the patient, Church says that she is recovering.
CNN’s John Newsome contributed to this report.
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