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Possible Case of Measles Reported in Santa Barbara County Child

Officials say the source of the infection has not yet been determined, and the affected household has been quarantined

With more than 70 people reportedly affected by a measles outbreak in California, local Public Health officials are reporting a possible case in a Santa Barbara County child.

Public health officials spent time to brief the media Wednesday afternoon about the possible case and what residents can do to stay healthy.

Dr. Charity Dean, public health officer with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, was one of several experts who spoke, and said the department could have the test results on the possible case back within the next week, hopefully sooner.

"If this is a confirmed case, we will be letting the community know," she said.

The department has provided a vaccine for members of the impacted household, quarantined them to their home and is reaching out to others who may have been exposed.  

The California Department of Public Health states that 50 of the 73 cases of measles that have been reported in the state are epidemiologically tied to an outbreak at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim.

The source of the Santa Barbara County measles case has not yet been determined, and officials said there are a number of respiratory viruses in the community and the department will continue to test cases to determine whether they are confirmed cases of measles.

Measles is a highly infectious, airborne disease that typically begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, and within a few days a red rash appears, usually first on the face and then spreading downward to the rest of the body, according to the CDPH.

Children are encouraged to get the vaccination as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and if a household contains a young child, "it is essential that others in the household get vaccinated to protect the young who are not old enough to have all recommended vaccinations," according to Santa Barbara County Public Health.

Dean couldn't disclose whether the child who could have measles had been to Disneyland, but currently there were no epidemiological links to those at the theme park.

A person with measles can potentially infect 12 to 18 people in a population that is not immune to the disease, i.e., those who haven't been vaccinated.

Other suspected cases have been reported but it's unlikely those cases are measles, because many other illnesses have similar symptoms, like fever and rash, Dean said.

People should reach out to their primary care with their vaccination history, and those people can be advised about whether they need a booster or whether they are immune.

Dean said people worried about their children having measles should call ahead of time to a clinic "so they don't expose a potential waiting room to a highly contagious disease."

Dr. Takashi Wada, director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said that in addition to measles, the state is in the midst of a whooping cough epidemic as well.

"These are serious illnesses and a clear reminder of the importance of vaccinations," he said.

Most of the cases have occurred in children that are unvaccinated or under vaccinated, and Wada said while some parents may be concerned about vaccines, "countless research studies have found no links between vaccines and autism," he said.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. David Fisk said that if people continued to vaccinate themselves and their children, diseases like measles would be largely eradicated in the U.S.

The current outbreaks of whooping cough and measles are definitely related to lack of vaccination, and Fisk said there's been an increase in recent years of parents making "personal belief exemptions" and choosing not to immunize their children.

"People who choose not vaccinate are putting others at risk of serious illness," he said.

With the concept of herd immunity, usually about 95 percent of the population must be vaccinated to control the spread and recurrence of these illnesses, he said.

The idea is that those who can be immunized should be in order to protect those who may not be able to receive a vaccine, like those with weakened immune systems or are too young to receive vaccines, like infants.

Adults over the age of 19 and born in or after 1957 are recommended to get one to two doses of the Measles Mumps and Rubella, or MMR, vaccination. People with weakened immune systems, who are pregnant or have HIV should not receive the vaccine.

People are not at risk if they were born prior to 1957, have been diagnosed in the past by a physician, served in the armed forces, have written documentation with dates of receipt of at least one of the vaccine doses, or have a documented IgG+ test for measles, the county said.

A phone line has also been set up by county public health to give out information on the measles during regular business hours and can be reached at 805.681.4373.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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