Confirmation that an employee at Vista Murrieta High School was stricken with measles prompted Riverside County's top health official Friday to bar any students not vaccinated against the disease from returning to school.
"Even though this is the second such action in a week, every time I exclude people from school I weigh the decision carefully," said Riverside County Public Health Officer Cameron Kaiser. "It's to protect the health of those who are being excluded and to protect the community. The last thing I want is more preventable cases."
Kaiser issued a directive that around 40 Vista Murrieta students whose records gave no indication of measles vaccination be kept out of class until Feb. 7. That date was chosen because it marks the end of the Department of Public Health's "surveillance period," or the time during which a potential measles carrier would go from incubating the disease to revealing signs of having it.
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According to health officials, a school employee was recently diagnosed with measles but is already in recovery and has been cleared to return to work because he's no longer infectious.
Fears that the employee, whose identity was not released, could have exposed students and staff led to a review of all enrollees' health records.
According to the health department, any documents lacking proof of measles vaccination were flagged.
Letters were going out Friday notifying the affected students' parents of the county's decision.
The action comes two days after Kaiser barred 70 Palm Desert High School students who had no proof of vaccination from returning to class until the end of next week. The physician said the decision was based on the fact that a student infected with measles may have exposed the unvaccinated students, potentially leading to a "second wave of cases."
There was no word on where either measles case originated. Riverside County is among the places with measles cases that can be traced to last month's Disneyland outbreak, according to state health officials.