This article was contributed by Samela Perez with San Benito County Public Health Services.
Health officials confirmed this week that three Bay Area residents in Santa Clara, San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties have contracted measles, adding to the 206 already confirmed cases reported nationwide.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles symptoms start with a fever, runny nose, cough, and red eyes, and are followed by a rash that spreads all over the body.
The general public is at very low risk of contracting measles as a result of these cases, but all residents should ensure they are immune or have been vaccinated against measles. Vaccination against measles is part of routine childhood immunizations and is generally needed for school entry.
Vaccination with two doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent measles, stated Dr. Gail Newel, health officer for San Benito County.
“The vaccine provides long-lasting protection against measles,” Newel said. “Those who have previously been infected with measles are also protected from being infected with measles again.”
The measles vaccination rate for children in San Benito County is high, according to the California Department of Public Health – over 95 percent on average in public and private schools, though some individual schools may have lower rates, and some have rates of 100 percent.
The MMR vaccine is included in the routine childhood immunization schedule. Children should receive the first dose at 12-15 months and the second dose at four to six years. Older children can be vaccinated, too, if they haven’t already. If you or your child are not already vaccinated or are unsure of your vaccination status talk with your healthcare provider about getting vaccinated or having a blood test to check for immunity to measles.
If you suspect that you or your child have measles or may have been exposed to measles contact your healthcare provider. Call before going to the medical office so the office can take steps to prevent others from being exposed to measles.
For more information regarding measles, please go to the Centers for Disease Control website at https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html, the California Department of Public Health website at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/measles.aspx or call San Benito County Public Health Services at (831) 637-5367. Additional information is also on our website at http://hhsa.cosb.us/.