A child who lives in Merced County has tested positive for measles, officials from the Merced County Public Health Department said Tuesday.
The child, who is under age 5, has since recovered, and the county’s Department of Public Health is working with the family to contact people who may have been exposed to the disease. It’s unclear how many people have come into contact with the child, but county officials said family members were immediately isolated.
Merced County officials are not releasing the child’s location or sex in an effort to protect personal information.
“Another part of the reason we don’t talk about that is because we don’t want people in one part of the county to think they don’t have to do something,” said Michael Johnson, assistant public health director, during a news conference Tuesday. “Everyone should recognize the signs and symptoms, and get vaccinated.”
Johnson confirmed the child is not in school or day care and hasn’t traveled outside Merced County.
The source of the child’s exposure to measles has not been determined. Johnson said the child received one of two vaccinations recommended to protect against measles.
He estimated the child was infected with measles around Feb. 23.
Additional reports of measles cases in the county are also being investigated, Johnson said, including three current cases. Since late December, the county has looked into a dozen suspected cases, but all the tests have been negative.
Measles is a highly infectious disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the disease spreads through direct contact and through the air, mainly by coughing and sneezing.
According to a health advisory put out by the California Department of Public Health, measles typically begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Measles rashes are described as red and blotchy; they typically start on the hairline and face before spreading to the rest of the body.
People can be contagious with measles for nine days.
The last time measles cases were reported in Merced County was in 2011. Both cases were children who were not vaccinated, said Richard Rios, epidemiologist with the county Department of Public Health.
But it’s been years since the county has experienced an outbreak, before vaccinations were a school requirement, he said.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. According to the state Department of Public Health, two doses of the MMR vaccine are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles. The CDC recommends the first dose be administered at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age.
The state has also begun offering vaccines for adults, which is recommended for anyone born after 1957. “If you’re born before 1957, you’re immune,” Johnson said Tuesday.
Local health officials have said those who suspect they have been exposed to measles should call their health care providers before going in for a visit. That way the facility can be prepared to isolate the patient and reduce the possibility of contagion.
State health officials on Tuesday said there have been 131 confirmed cases of measles since December with most of them linked to an outbreak that originated at Disneyland, according to the Associated Press.
Merced County health officials said it’s still unknown whether the local case is connected to the Southern California outbreak. “We don’t know whether this case is related to the Disneyland strain,” Johnson said. “But we’re doing some testing.”
Questions can be directed to the county Department of Public Health at (209) 381-1200.