Message from the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH
April 17, 2015
Many families are now concerned about measles
following a recent outbreak triggered by an infectious
person or persons visiting the Disneyland Parks in
Anaheim, California during mid- to late December 2014.
To date there are 29 confirmed cases in Los Angeles
County, 17 of which are linked to the Disneyland Parks. As the outbreak continues to unfold, it is likely that new measles cases will occur among those who have had contact with persons in the initial wave of infection. Click here for more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the current outbreak.
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that causes a fever, runny nose, and severe rash. Persons with measles are contagious from 4 days before until four days after the rash appears. The virus is spread through a cough or sneeze by a person with measles, and can still infect others 2 hours after the infected person has left a room.
Currently the percent of Los Angeles County residents who are immune to measles is very high, which helps to protect the general population by greatly reducing the chances of widespread infection. Unfortunately those who are not immune are at greater risk of infection during outbreaks or when traveling internationally. About 90% of non-immune contacts become infected if exposed. For these reasons, it is highly recommended that everyone born in 1957 or later should receive the measles vaccine to protect both themselves and the people around them, particularly infants and other individuals who are unable to get vaccinated for health reasons. The vaccine is covered for both adults and children by health insurance companies as a preventive health service.
The measles vaccine is very safe and effective. A single dose of vaccine protects between 94% and 98% of individuals. The effectiveness reaches 99% with two doses. Currently, it is recommended that children receive their first dose of vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age and a second dose before school entry. The vaccine is also recommended for people who cannot recall whether they were already vaccinated for measles. Contact your personal physician if you have specific questions regarding you or your children’s vaccine history.
In response to the measles cases that have occurred in Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has mounted effective public health strategies to control the spread of this disease. They include:
- Strongly advising unvaccinated individuals to receive the measles vaccine;
- Isolating people who are infectious to prevent the spread of measles to others;
- Identifying contacts and protecting them with active or passive immunization when possible, as well as limiting their activities when necessary to prevent possible spread to others; and
- Notifying the public through postings and local media of specific public locations where measles cases have occurred.
For more information about measles, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in Los Angeles County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about measles, including how its spread and where to get vaccinated.