Amid Measles Spike, Health Officials Say 2014 Off to Bad Start

Most of the patients who contracted the illness were not vaccinated, some of them intentionally so

There has been a marked increase in measles cases in California so far this year, especially in Orange County where the numbers are continuing to grow and health officials are warning residents of specific spots where they may have been exposed to the extremely contagious illness.

Fifteen cases of measles have been confirmed in California this season, the California Department of Public Health announced Friday. At this time last year, there were two cases of measles in the state.

Also on Friday, health officials updated their numbers of deadly flu cases in the state. So far, at least 278 Californians have died from a flu-related illness, compared to 32 influenza fatalities by this time last year.

Between an especially severe flu season and the spike in measles cases, health officials lamented that 2014 is "off to a very bad start."

Measles is a contagious viral disease that spreads through the air via coughing or sneezing. Symptoms include a fever, followed by a cough, runny nose and rash, according to health officials.

“Immunization is the best defense against measles, with 99 percent of persons developing immunity after two doses,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of CDPH, in a statement.

Those in California who contracted measles range in age from 5 months to 44 years of age, health officials said. Most of those patients were not vaccinated, and seven were intentionally not vaccinated under the personal belief exemption.

Among the California cases with onset in 2014, three carriers had traveled to the Philippines, and two had traveled to India, health officials said.

“With an outbreak in the Philippines and measles transmission ongoing in many parts of the world outside of North and South America, we can expect to see more imported cases of this vaccine-preventable disease,” Chapman said.

In Southern California, cases of measles have been found in Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties.

Four cases of measles in OC have been reported in the last seven weeks, with one stemming from December 2013, according to the county’s Health Care Agency.

Health officials in Orange County have pinpointed at least four places where measles exposure was possible. Anyone who visited these locations during the listed times is urged to speak with their doctor about possible measles exposure:

  • Del Taco, 7001 Katella Ave., Stanton; Feb. 10: 5:30-11 p.m. and Feb. 13: 4-9 p.m.
  • Pueblo Medical Center, 8045 Cerritos Ave., Stanton; Feb. 11: 2-4 p.m.
  • Western High School, 501 S. Western Ave., Anaheim; Feb. 13: 7:45 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • West Anaheim Medical Center, 3033 W. Orange Ave., Anaheim; Feb. 14: 8 - 11 a.m.

Measles is contagious for roughly eight days – four days before and after the rash appears, health officials said.

CDPH encourages children to receive their first dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine between 12 to 15 months.

A second dose is recommended when children start kindergarten, and anyone born since 1957 who has not had two doses might still be vulnerable and should seek additional immunization.

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