An outbreak in the Los Angeles area of Southern California has now spread to Santa Barbara County and health officials say most were unvaccinated. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is investigating exposures to a confirmed measles patient. The one confirmed case in Santa Barbara County is linked to the measles outbreak in Los Angeles that currently involves 11 patients. Of the 12 measles cases now involved in the Los Angeles outbreak, only one has provided documentation of vaccination.
The exposures in Santa Barbara occurred at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital on Tuesday, December 27th between 7:24 p.m. and 10:16 p.m. There were no other exposures. All exposed healthcare workers, patients, and visitors have already been contacted and appropriate measures are being taken to protect their health and the community. Cottage Health was able to quickly verify that all exposed healthcare workers were fully vaccinated against the measles virus.
“Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “To protect individual health and to prevent the spread of measles to others, we urge residents who are not immunized to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine as soon as possible. Two doses of MMR vaccine is highly effective in preventing measles and is the best way to protect against disease.”
Measles can spread quickly to those who are not immune. Common signs and symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, and a rash all over the body. In some persons, measles can cause serious illness such as pneumonia, encephalitis, or even death. The incubation period for developing measles is up to 21 days after exposure to someone else who has the disease.
Measles is a serious disease and can cause encephalitis, pneumonia, and even death. The outcomes are particularly serious for young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems. In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, it is estimated three to four million people in the United States were infected annually. Each year an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.
Individuals who are unsure of their vaccination status should check with their doctor to determine if they need to receive the vaccine. If you are ill, you should first contact your doctor by phone before going to their office so measures can be taken to prevent possible spread to others.