Last week, Riverside County public health officials issued a measles advisory, and earlier Wednesday, Jan. 21, California health officials held a teleconference to discuss the current measles outbreak through the state.
Officials advised people who have not had the measles vaccine, particularly children under a year, to avoid locations such as Disneyland. Nearly 48 of the current 68 cases of measles in California can be linked there or to individuals who contacted the disease there.
So far four confirmed cases (two adults and two children, one of which is under a year) of measles have been identified in Riverside County and the total for all of 2014 was five, according to Jose Arballo Jr., senior public information specialist for the Riverside County Department of Public Health. The state links each of these cases to the outbreak, which started at Disneyland.
“Measles is not a trivial illness,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the state’s infectious disease center. “If you are unvaccinated, I worry about [Disneyland] … I recommend that children or infants [who are unvaccinated] not be taken to that kind of place.”
Of the current cases, more than 60 percent are adults older than 20 years. Four are infants under a year and another 10 are children between 1 and 4. Nearly a quarter of these cases have required some time in a hospital, according to Chavez.
“A great majority of the measles cases in this outbreak have occurred among individuals who were not vaccinated. Of the 32 cases, for which the vaccination history is known, 82 percent have not been immunized against measles,” he said.
According to state records, about 91 percent of kindergarten students at Idyllwild School had their measles vaccination last year. The remaining students had a personal beliefs exemption. The state considers that level vulnerable. The safest level is 95 percent or more of students vaccinated.
The current measles vaccine is very safe and effective, Chavez stated, and he urged those unvaccinated and parents of unvaccinated children to get the vaccination.
“After it was introduced in the early 1960s, the number of California cases went from nearly 39,000 to a recorded low of four in 2005,” he added. In 2000, measles was declared eliminated.
Many more cases are likely. Only 61 cases were confirmed in 2014. “I’m asking the unvaccinated in California to consider getting immunized against measles to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones and to protect their community,” Chavez emphasized.
“People are not aware of how dangerous this disease can be in children,” Chavez stressed.
Measles is a highly infectious, airborne disease that typically begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, and within a few days a red rash appears, usually first on the face and then spreading downward to the rest of the body.