California is experiencing an increase in measles cases, likely due to international travel or exposure to others who have recently traveled to Europe, Asia and Africa where there are outbreaks of this highly contagious disease.
“California, like the rest of the nation and, indeed, the world, is experiencing an increase in measles cases that is entirely preventable with immunization,” said Dr. Gilberto Chávez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health. “Anyone who will be traveling or is expecting contact with recent international travelers should confirm that their vaccinations are up-to-date.”
Since April, seven new cases of measles were reported in California, bringing the statewide total to 13 for this year. Last year 27 cases of measles were reported. In 2009, only nine cases were reported. Of the cases reported for this year, three were reported in Mendocino County and two in Santa Clara County. Single cases have been reported in Alameda, Orange, Sacramento, San Benito, San Diego, San Mateo, Sonoma and Stanislaus counties.
Federal officials report a nationwide increase in measles cases. Nearly all of the affected individuals traveled to Europe, Asia or Africa, or had contact with international travelers. Currently, outbreaks of measles are occurring in many European countries, as well as India and the Philippines. In France, more than 9,000 measles cases have been reported in the last six months, including fatal cases and cases with neurological complications.
“Because measles vaccination usually starts at 12 to 15 months of age, infants 6 months or older traveling internationally may need an early vaccine dose before departure,” added Chávez. “Parents should consult with their health care provider to ensure infants and children are properly immunized.”
Measles is a highly infectious disease that typically causes a fever, runny nose, cough, sore eyes and a red rash all over the body. A person with measles can be contagious for up to four days before and four days after the onset of rash. Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia. About one child in every 1,000 who gets measles will develop encephalitis — an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, deafness or brain damage. For every 1,000 children who become ill with measles, one or two will die from the disease.
Travelers who develop symptoms of measles should call their healthcare provider before going to a healthcare facility so that appropriate steps can be taken to protect other patients from measles. To hear more about measles from Dr. Chávez, click here.