By Miriam Raftery
April 29, 2019 (Los Angeles) — A major outbreak of measles (or rubella) in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities could soon spread to San Diego, health officials warn. Here are fast facts you should know:
Los Angeles County health officials ordered more than 1,000 students and staff at the University of California and Cal State Los Angeles to stay home and self-quarantine due to measles exposure, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.
Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on April 1st may also have been exposed to the highly contagious disease.
Measles sickens 90% of those exposed who have not been vaccinated. By contrast, the vaccine provides 97% protection.
Measles had been declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. But the disease reappeared after unvaccinated travelers became exposed overseas and brought the disease back to the U.S.
Before the measles vaccine became available, most children got the disease. Each year, over 48,000 people were hospitalized. A thousand people a year suffered brain swelling from measles, and measles killed 400 to 500 people each year.
People born between 1957 and 1967 may not have full immunities, because initially only one shot was given. Later it was found that a second booster shot was needed. To be sure that you have immunities to measles, you can request a blood test from your doctor and ask for a booster shot if needed.
Federal health officials blame the current outbreak on parents refusing to vaccinate their children, partly due to a debunked study that falsely linked the vaccination to autism.
“Vaccines are safe and effective. They do not cause autism. That claim has been disproven,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer.
President Donald Trump, who once touted anti-vax misinformation, last week reversed course. Amid the measles outbreak, President Trump urged Americans to “get the shots.”
Measles begins with a high fever, rash and can cause serious respiratory symptoms or in rare cases, encephalitis (brain swelling) and death. It can be particularly dangerous for babies and young children.
The vast majority of cases currently are in unvaccinated people. Vaccination is also important to protect people who cannot get a measles vaccine including very young babies, people with certain immune disorder and those allergic to eggs.
The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency has issued an alert this week asking the local medical community be on the lookout for potential measles cases and to report suspect measles cases to HHSA immediately.
If you suspect that you or a family member may have measles, health officials ask that you stay home and don’t go to a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital, where you may infect others. Instead, call your physician.
Parents can obtain the vaccines for their children through their regular medical provider. People with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a County public health center for free. Local retail pharmacies also offer some vaccinations for a fee.
To find the nearest County public health center or community clinic, call 2-1-1.