Two measles cases confirmed in Sacramento County – first since 2012, officials say

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Cleveland Clinic explains how measles comes on, develops, can get complicated and how to prevent the infectious disease.
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Cleveland Clinic explains how measles comes on, develops, can get complicated and how to prevent the infectious disease.

Two Sacramento County children from the same family were diagnosed with measles Tuesday – the first confirmed cases in the county in seven years, according to the Sacramento County Public Health Department.

The children were not vaccinated and are at home recovering, according to county spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno. Anyone potentially exposed to the deadly virus was notified, Bongiorno said, though she could not specify how many were notified.

The county learned of the suspected measles cases Friday, and concluded after “a full investigation was done” that there was minimal exposure to the public, Bongiorno said.

The family had recently traveled internationally, which may be tied to how the children were exposed, Bongiorno said. She could not confirm where the family had visited for “health information confidentiality.”

Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and can spread when it reaches a group of unvaccinated people.

The Sacramento County cases comes as the CDC confirms at least 626 individual measles cases have occurred this year in 22 states as of last week. The CDC estimates the country is on pace to see a record-breaking year of measles cases since it was eliminated in 2000.

The last confirmed Sacramento County measles cases were in 2012, also related to international travel, Bongiorno said.

Several measles cases have recently cropped up in Northern California: Last month, an unvaccinated Calaveras County girl and three Placer County family members were diagnosed with measles. A man in visiting a Redding movie theater last week became Shasta County’s third reported case of measles.

And Butte County is home to one of the six measles outbreaks (three or more cases in a jurisdiction) across the country, with a total of 10 cases.

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An infected person can have measles for up to five days before showing symptoms, according to the Sacramento County health department. The virus is transmitted through the air, or by touching moist, warm hands or surfaces where it can survive.

“One in every 20 people with measles develops pneumonia and, more rarely, serious, even life-threatening complications can occur,” the department stated in a press release.

The department “strongly encourages” those 12 months or older who are not vaccinated to get immunized with the two-dose measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

As California has strengthened vaccination requirements for children attending schools and day care centers, a vocal group of anti-vaccine advocates – citing religious or personal beliefs – have worked to roll back restrictions in the state.

“We are working to educate the public about the risks of measles and the best prevention, which is vaccination,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in a statement. “(I) want to remind parents that there is scientific evidence that shows there is no link between vaccinations and autism.”

“One dose of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, provides up to 95 percent protection,” Kasirye said. “The second dose can be given as soon as a month after the first dose, which boosts protection to nearly 100 percent.”

The Sacramento County Department of Health Services offers free and reduced cost vaccinations to those under 19 without immunization coverage through its Immunization Assistance Program. For more information, call (916) 875-7468.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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