Seattle school cancels classes, moves to online learning because of measles

Aki Kurose Middle School will be closed Friday and shift to online learning next week after a student tested positive for measles, a highly contagious disease characterized by rash, fever and other potentially serious symptoms.

The Hillman City school will be closed Friday so teachers can prepare for online learning, which will begin Tuesday and stretch through June 2. In-person classes will resume the next Monday.

Seattle Public Schools Culinary Services will have boxes of food for students available for pickup starting Tuesday, the district said.

Measles is highly contagious, and people who do not have immunity could catch the disease by being in the same room with an infected person, the district’s notice said. The notice also warned that anyone who’s been exposed to measles and doesn’t have immunity must stay home. 

Seattle and King County officials warned the public over the weekend that a child had been diagnosed with measles, noting that people at Aki Kurose Middle School between noon and 5:45 p.m. on May 11, and from 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. on May 12, may have been exposed.

On May 13, anyone at Pike Place Market from 3:45 to 6:45 p.m. or at World Market on Western Avenue from 4:15 to 6:45 p.m. could have been exposed. On May 15, those at HopeCentral, a clinic on South Othello Street, from 2 to 5:45 p.m. may have been exposed.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the student who became infected is the same child public health officials referenced over the weekend or whether that child was vaccinated.

Public health officials urged people who may have been exposed to find out whether they’ve received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), which protects against measles, or if they’ve been infected previously, which can provide immunity against the disease. Before visiting a clinic or hospital, people who develop an unexplained rash or fever should call first and explain they may have been exposed to measles.

Lawmakers clamped down on vaccine requirements for public school students in 2020 following a large measles outbreak in southwest Washington in 2019. Families can no longer claim a personal or philosophical exemption from the MMR vaccine. And students are now required to show paperwork proving they received a list of shots and boosters including the combined tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis vaccine (Tdap), as well as vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis B, polio and measles, mumps and rubella. 

In early 2020, before the pandemic began, Seattle Public Schools went so far as to bar from class students who lacked complete vaccination records. As of the 2021-22 school year, about 92% of King County public school students were up to date on their vaccines; in Seattle, that number was 93%, county data suggests.

Symptoms typically begin seven to 21 days after being in contact with someone who is infected; the disease is airborne, and can linger in the air for up to two hours after the infected person leaves the area.

People at highest risk for complications include infants and children under age 5, adults 20 and older, those who are pregnant and those with weakened immune systems.

The county has information on its website about measles symptoms, where to get vaccinations and the vaccine regulations for schools and child care facilities.

Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

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