Containing an outbreak linked to unvaccinated children strains public health resources
By John Olivares
A measles epidemic that began at Disneyland has spread to 17 states and the District of Columbia, doubling last year’s monthly average, public health officials said.
A total of 121 cases of the disease have been confirmed across the U.S. since the end of December 2014, said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health.
In Orange County, 35 cases have been confirmed out of 88 cases reported in California as of Feb. 9. About more than half of those are patients 20 years or older.
“It can be a serious disease for people of all ages,” said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
The CDC urges adults to get booster shots.
“There’s no harm in getting another MMR vaccine if you’ve already been vaccinated,” Schuchat said.
Two doses of measles-containing vaccine are 99 percent effective in preventing the disease.
Children under age five and adults over age 20 tend to be the most vulnerable, Schuchat added.
Measles is an infectious viral disease that causes fever, respiratory complications and a spotty red rash all over the body. It begins with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and a rash. Infected people are usually contagious from about four days before their rash starts to four days afterward.
Santa Ana College officials have advised faculty to send home students showing symptoms, and to follow up by calling the Health and Wellness Center at the Johnson Center.
SAC is offering the MMR vaccine for $65. For $8, students can get a blood test that shows if a person is immune or not. So far there have been no measles cases reported at the college, Rebecca Barnard, coordinator of Health & Wellness Center, said.
“We’re hoping that people become educated and aware of all signs and symptoms. A room becomes contagious for two hours after an infected person enters. If you show symptoms, remain at home and isolate yourself,” Barnard said.
The U.S. experienced a record number of infections during 2014, with 644 confirmed from 27 states reported to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. This is the largest reported number of cases since measles was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000.
Outside Disneyland on a busy weekday, eight out of 10 parents polled said they were not worried about their children contracting measles while in the park. All 10 said their children had been vaccinated.
The anti-vaccination crowd got a boost when a British study alleged a link between autism and childhood vaccines. The study was later dismissed as a fraud by a leading medical publication.
The California Department for Public Health is urging caution about individuals who are not vaccinated, especially infants under 12 months.
During the last school year, 3.3 percent of California kindergartners — about 18,200 — were allowed to skip vaccinations, according to the CDC. The vast majority of exemptions were due to personal beliefs.
Currently at the SAC Child Development Center, no child is allowed in the program without being vaccinated.
“If a child is showing symptoms, the child is sent to the doctor’s office immediately,” said Maria Castellon, director of SAC Child Development Center.
Although public schools require kids to be vaccinated, parents can exempt their kids simply by saying they have a personal objection to vaccination.
The cases in 2015 are on pace to surpass the 644 reported in 2014.
The outbreak of a disease that was declared eradicated 15 years ago is on pace to surpass 2014’s record number
17: The epidemic that began in Disneyland had spread to 17 states and the District of Columbia.
35: Number of infections reported in Orange County as of Feb. 9.
88: Number of confirmed measles cases in California since December.
Source: Center of Disease and Control