By Kathy Ryan
California is currently experiencing a large outbreak of measles. The outbreak started in December 2014 when at least 40 people who visited or worked at the Disneyland theme park in Orange County in mid-December contracted the viral disease, spreading it to at least half a dozen other states. It is widespread in many parts of the world, including Europe, Africa and Asia.
Measles begins with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and a rash. The rash typically appears first on the face, along the hairline, and behind the ears and then affects the rest of the body. Infected people are usually contagious for about four days before and four days after their rash appears. Children routinely get their first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine at 12 months old or later. The second dose of MMR is usually administered before the child begins kindergarten, but may be given one month or more after the first dose.
The California Department of Public Health released the following statement on the matter.
“Measles is highly contagious and highly preventable through vaccinations. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is urging caution to individuals who are not vaccinated, especially infants under 12 months. Any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated. It is safe to visit these places, including the Disneyland Resort, if you are vaccinated. Therefore, CDPH recommends that anyone not already immunized against measles gets immunized at this time. Two doses of measles-containing vaccine (MMR vaccine) are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, check with your doctor to have a test to check for measles immunity or to receive vaccination.”
California currently has 92 confirmed measles cases:
Of these, reports say 58 can be directly or indirectly linked to Disneyland. Forty cases have primary linkages to Disney (as employees or visitors) where they are presumed to have been exposed. Nineteen cases are secondary or tertiary cases to the above 40. San Diego has 13 confirmed cases.
It is important to reiterate that the second dose of MMR may be given 28 days after the first dose. So preschool age children who have only had one dose to meet school/childcare requirement are eligible to go and receive their second dose. This dose would count as dose No. 2 for TK/kinder immunization requirement.
Children should get two doses of MMR vaccine:
First Dose: 12 – 15 months of age
Second Dose: 4 – 6 years of age (may be given earlier, if at least 28 days after the first dose)
Some infants younger than 12 months should get a dose of MMR if they are traveling out of the country. (This dose will not count toward their routine series.)
Some adults should also get the MMR vaccine. Generally, anyone 18 years of age or older who was born after 1956 should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, unless they can show that they have either been vaccinated or had all three diseases.
For questions about school exclusion for measles, please call the San Diego Immunization Program at 866-358-2966 and press 4 for assistance.
Additional information is available at cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/Measles.aspx.