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Measles outbreak in California growing -- 21 cases in one county

Orange County, California's third largest county behind Los Angeles and San Francisco, has 21 confirmed cases of measles, the highest cluster in the state, but the state has other outbreaks in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
By Alex Cukan   |   March 27, 2014 at 6:03 PM  |  Updated March 28, 2014 at 5:25 PM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, March 27 (UPI) -- Orange County, California's third largest county behind Los Angeles and San Francisco, has 21 confirmed cases of measles, the highest cluster in the state, but the state has other outbreaks in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Richard Sanchez, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said the entire state of California only had three cases of measles in the past five years. Currently, the state reported 35 cases of measles most likely brought to the area via travelers from Europe or the Philippines, two areas experiencing measles outbreaks.

However, the spread of measles is not being transmitted among those not vaccinated in California.

"It is likely that we will see additional measles cases so we are taking necessary steps to prepare for a coordinated response," Sanchez wrote in a letter to the county board. "Public Health continues to perform the activities outlined in the previous board information letter in an effort to reduce measles transmission and adverse health outcomes."

The Philippines Department of Health said 15,683 suspected cases of measles -- 3,434 confirmed cases -- and 23 measles-related deaths were reported from Jan. 1 through Feb. 15.

To address the spike in measles cases, Sanchez said the county set up a temporary satellite clinic dedicated to measles-related clinical needs such as testing for immunity or for administering injections for people exposed to measles.

Since at least a couple of cases of measles were caught by children in their doctor's waiting room, public health officials urge those who might have been exposed to measles who are not in fully vaccinated to be vaccinated in places that reduce the risk of spreading the disease further.

The dedicated clinic -- plus community clinics open evenings and weekends -- keeps measles contacts separate from other clinical services and provides additional support to public health investigators so that they can focus on the spread of the disease.

The risk of developing infection after brief encounters with persons with measles is low, but as a precaution, people who might have been exposed by being in the same places as those diagnosed with measles should review their vaccination history if they have not previously had the measles.

Those exposed to someone with measles should monitor themselves for illness with fever and/or an unexplained rash from 7 to 21 days after exposure.

Symptoms begin with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and rash. The rash typically appears first on the face, along the hairline and behind the ears and then affects the rest of the body. Infected people are usually contagious for about eight days -- four days before their rash starts and four days after. If symptoms develop, contact a healthcare provider immediately, California health officials said.

Children are recommended to get their first dose of MMR vaccine at ages 12 to 15 months, with the second dose at ages 4 to 6. Immunized adults do not need boosters, but anyone born since 1957 who has not had two doses of vaccine might still be vulnerable to measles and should ask their doctor about getting immunized, California public health officials said.

From Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, 54 people in the United States reported having measles -- usually only about 60 cases in the United States are reported each year.

[Orange County Health Care Agency]
[California Department of Public Health]
[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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