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California Health Officials 'Very Concerned' As Number Of Measles Cases Rise

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

Measles, mumps and rubella vaccines are seen at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., Wednesday, March 27, 2019.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

There are now 16 confirmed cases of measles in California, from Los Angeles county to Tehama county, according to the latest count by the California Department of Public Health.

The agency is “very concerned” with the rising tally, given that there were a total of 21 cases of measles over the entirety of 2018, said Dr. James Watt, chief of the CDPH Division of Communicable Disease Control.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is still widespread in many parts of the world. Watt urged anyone who is traveling outside of North America to be vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

There are currently 314 cases nationwide with outbreaks in California, Texas, Illinois, Washington and New York, according to the latest count by the Centers for Disease Control.  

“There are also some measles outbreaks going on in the U.S., and we’ve seen measles transmission to people who are just passing through airports, even in this country,” said Watt.

State and local health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated so they don’t put themselves or other vulnerable populations at risk. Infants under the age of one year are at high risk because they cannot have the measles vaccine, Watt said. He says another high-risk group are people of all ages who cannot be given the measles vaccine because there immune systems are compromised.

Counties are posting measles health advisories to reflect changing information about possible exposure locations and timeframes. According to CDPH, as of Friday Butte, Calaveras and Tehama counties together have six confirmed measles cases. Placer county has three; Santa Clara and San Mateo each have two. Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties each have one confirmed case.

In previous and current California and U.S. outbreaks, Watt said, measles has tended to spread in geographically varied communities where immunization coverage is lower.

"We see [this] in our school data, [that] there are some schools that have lower percentage of children who've received all their immunization,” Watt said. “Those are the places we're really most concerned about."

County health officials are advising residents to call their physician if they think they have measles symptoms and urge them not to come to a clinic or doctor’s office without notifying them in advance to prevent spreading the disease to others.

Earlier this week, California lawmakers introduced a bill that would give CDPH the authority to vet medical exemptions for vaccines. Supporters say it would make it harder for physicians to make money by signing fake exemptions for parents who want their children to skip vaccines.  

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