The California measles outbreak that began in December 2014 is over, Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer, announced Friday, April 17. However Senate Bill 277, which would eliminate the personal-belief exemption currently allowing parents to opt their child out of vaccines, encountered significant opposition last week at the Senate Education Committee meeting.
No new outbreak-related measles cases have been reported to CDPH for two consecutive 21-day incubation periods (42 days), allowing public health officials to declare the outbreak that infected 131 Californians to be over.
“We are pleased this outbreak is over, but caution that measles can be reintroduced in California at any time when an infected person brings it to the state,” said Smith. “The best defense for protection against the highly infectious measles is vaccination.”
After many people spoke out against the bill and the concern children would be forced to be home schooled, the bill’s sponsors, Dr. Richard Pann and Sen. Ben Allen, offered amendments that allayed the fears of the colleagues on the committee. The amended bill was approved 7-2 and now goes to the full Senate.
Of the 131 cases, officials documented the vaccination status for 81 cases. Of these people, 56 or about 70 percent were unvaccinated.
While this outbreak is over, it does not mean no future measles cases will be reported in California.
Measles is not endemic in California, but can circulate when a contagious, infected person enters the state and exposes others. Forty-two cases were directly linked to an initial exposure in December at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim. Additional cases were secondary to those.
Eight of the cases were in Riverside County and 35 cases occurred in Orange County.
People can be infectious for four days prior to developing the rash associated with measles and may feel well enough to be out and about, potentially exposing others. Because measles is a highly infectious, airborne disease, public health officials are pleased to have contained the spread of this outbreak to a relatively few individuals, and that no related deaths occurred.
Measles symptoms typically begin 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.
Two doses of measles-containing vaccine (MMR vaccine) are more than 97 percent effective in preventing measles.