A significant measles outbreak in 1917 at Lincoln Elementary School in Medford serves as a reminder that, before vaccinations were available, outbreaks were common in the Rogue Valley.
The Jackson County Health Department took severe measures to keep the disease from spreading, including closing the school for two weeks. In addition, parents were asked to keep their children at home. The quarantine was not mandatory but was recommended, and most people complied.
The Lincoln School students were not allowed to attend another school or visit their playgrounds. In addition, they were unable to go to the library, the movies or any other public indoor place. Families were asked to keep their children home from church and Sunday school.
Measles is a highly contagious disease spread in the air to those not vaccinated. In 1963, an effective vaccine was developed, followed by a weaker vaccine in 1968. It was hoped to wipe out measles by 1982. Although the disease sometimes appears, it is considered controlled today.
There are no more two-week school closures with parents having to keep their children away from everyone else.
Sources: “Measles History.” Measles, CDC, www.cdc.gov/measles/about/history.html. Accessed 25 March 2017. “Lincoln School Closed by Measles.” Mail Tribune, 25 March 2017 (Medford Oregon), p. A3. As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.