Tulare County has a non-existent risk of a measles outbreak since the disease was eliminated in 2000
VISALIA – Just four months into the year, the number of measles cases reported in the U.S. in 2019 is already the highest of any year since measles was officially declared eliminated in 2000. The increase is concentrated in Washington, Oregon, and New York, such as Brooklyn and Queens where there have been 466 confirmed cases of measles primarily for religious reasons.
Could it happen in Tulare County? Tulare County public health officials say it’s very unlikely.
In a released statement earlier this month, the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency Public Health Branch officials report that there is no known current risk related to measles in Tulare County at this time; however, officials are actively preparing for the potential of an exposure or outbreak. The Tulare County Public Health Lab has received specimens from Tulare and surrounding counties for testing: all specimens have tested negative for measles.
“The risk of being exposed to measles is increased at this time with outbreaks in other areas,” said Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County Public Health Officer. “Traveling, especially to places that do have outbreaks, can increase the risk of exposure to measles, which heightens the importance of getting the measles immunization.”
Historically, Tulare County has a non-existent level of risk for a measles outbreak, according to a recent report by The Lancet Infectious Disease. It lists the county’s past and current risk level at 0.00. The only county in California with a significant risk of an outbreak was Los Angeles. According to the report, LA County ranks 2nd in the nation on the list of potential outbreak sites, second only to Cook County in Illinois. The report based a county’s risk level on two main factors, the amount of individuals traveling there from a country experiencing outbreaks and low vaccination rates fueled by non-medical exemptions.
Measles is one of the most highly contagious illnesses, with symptoms that include fever (over 101˚), cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (red eyes) with discharge, and a rash that starts at the head and travels down the trunk and to the lower extremities. The virus is spread by a cough or sneeze by an infected person, and the virus can live for two hours after the person with measles has left the room. People with measles can infect other people from four days before to four days after the rash appears. The incubation period for developing measles is up to 21 days after being exposed.
The best way prevent measles is to get the measles immunization, which is available at your doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or health clinic. The Public Health Branch has an immunization program that offer low-cost or no-cost immunizations for individuals who are uninsured or underinsured. Please call (559) 685-5725 for more information, or visit https://tchhsa.org/eng/index.cfm/public-health/immunizations/ to see the May 2019 immunization schedule, travel recommendations, and school requirements.
Children usually get their first vaccine against the measles between one year and 15 months of age, with a second vaccine between the ages of four and six. An individual needs the two vaccines to be fully protected. The Tulare County vaccination rate for 2017/2018 was 98.3% for children entering kindergarten, which includes two measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines.
Travelers taking international or domestic trips should review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/measles. For those planning international trips, especially anyone of any age who does not have evidence of immunity, please ensure you’re protected against measles. For more information, visit the CDC’s international travel recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/measles/travelers.html.
If you think you or someone in your family has measles or has been exposed, contact your doctor’s office or a local clinic right away. Tell them you might have measles before you go in so that they can prevent other patients and staff from exposure.