Measles, Flu Spike Concerns State, Local Health Officials

Health officials are saying 2014 is "off to a very bad start" after California reported 35 new influenza-related deaths and 15 cases of measles

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Volunteers help distribute measles vaccines in this file image.

    After confirming 15 in-state reports of measles in the first couple months of 2014, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Friday underlined the importance of vaccination. The health department also reported 35 new influenza-related deaths.

    By this time last year, there had only been two measles cases and 32 flu-related deaths reported, prompting health officials to say 2014 is “off to a very bad start.”

    Measles is a contagious viral disease that spreads through the air via coughing or sneezing. Symptoms include a fever, followed by a cough, runny nose and rash, according to health officials.

    “Immunization is the best defense against measles, with 99 percent of persons developing immunity after two doses,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of CDPH, in a statement.

    “With an outbreak in the Philippines and measles transmission ongoing in many parts of the world outside of North and South America, we can expect to see more imported cases of this vaccine-preventable disease.”

    Those who contracted measles ranged in age from 5 months to 44 years of age. Officials said most were not vaccinated, and seven were intentionally not vaccinated under the personal belief exemption.

    Among the California cases with onset in 2014, three carriers had traveled to the Philippines, and two had traveled to India, health officials said, stressing the importance of immunization in travelers.

    Four of the reported cases are in the Bay Area, specifically in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties.

    Measles is contagious for roughly eight days, health officials said, noting four days before and after the rash’s appearance.

    CDPH officials encourage children to receive their first dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine when they reach the 12- to 15-month-old stage.

    A second dose is recommended when children start kindergarten, and anyone born since 1957 who has not had two doses might still be vulnerable and should seek additional immunization.

    On the influenza front, levels remain widespread, according to CDPH, with outpatient and hospitalization numbers above expected numbers.

    The 35 new deaths bring the total fatality tally for people less than 65 years of age to 278. Officials said there are an additional 29 possible flu-related deaths being investigated.