Thursday, March 6, 2014

Measles in California

California has had a lot of bad press in 2014 as vaccine-preventable diseases wreak havoc on citizens. As flu season is coming to a close, California has reported 278 deaths from the flu.

Now, measles, a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus, has arrived in the state. As of late February, fifteen Californians have been diagnosed with measles. Almost half of the cases did not receive a measles childhood vaccine. To date, six counties have reported cases of measles. Last year, there were only two reported measles cases in California.

Health officials are worried that many people could be exposed to the measles virus by one of the sick people. Measles had been eliminated in the United States in 2000, but people can still contract it by visiting a country where it hasn’t been eliminated. In the case of the recent outbreak, three of the measles patients had recently been in the Philippines, two had recently traveled to India, and two had contact with travelers.

“A myth persists among many parents that the measles vaccine is dangerous,” stated California state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez. “These illnesses continue to make a comeback because we have people who refuse to be vaccinated. There’s a tremendous burden to the counties and society.”

Thousands of people who ride the Bay Area Rapid Transit were warned they may have been exposed to measles after an unvaccinated UC Berkeley student contracted the disease on a trip to the Philippines and then rode public transportation.  Symptoms of measles include: rash, fever, runny nose and cough. If it isn’t treated, measles can cause: pneumonia, neurological damage, and birth defects in children if contracted by pregnant women.

It’s important to consult your physician when making vaccination choices. Measles and other diseases are serious threats to public health. When a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, the choice can also have implications on the health of others.

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