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Measles taking over as flu cases decrease

One case of the measles reported in San Diego County

REGION – As the widespread threat of flu has started showing signs of decline, an increasing case of measles appearing in the state has medical officials concerned.

Fifteen cases of the measles have been reported by the CDPH (California Department of Public Health) as of Feb. 21. That number doesn’t include one case of diagnosed measles in San Diego reported at the same time by the San Diego HHSA (Health and Human Services Agency.)

Though the measles can be fatal, no deaths have occurred.

According to the HHSA, the ill-person in San Diego may have exposed others while at the Branch Health Clinic Miramar on Feb. 14 and Feb. 18 and at the Naval Medical Center San Diego on Feb. 17.

The person, HHSA officials said, was exposed to the measles following a trip to the Philippines, where a large outbreak of the disease occurring.

Three of the other statewide reported measles patients have also traveled to the Philippines, explained Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director for infectious diseases at CDPH and state epidemiologist.

“We expect travelers to have to worry about measles there (Philippines) for some time to come,” said Dr. Kathleen Harriman, chief of vaccine preventable diseases with CDPH.

The counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Mateo all reported measles cases.

The age ranges of the people infected with measles are from 5 months old to 44 years old.

“Unfortunately, we are off to a very bad start in 2014,” Chavez said.

In the U.S., since the 1960s, with the introduction of the measles vaccination, the number of cases has declined to record low numbers.

In 2005, there were just four cases reported.

“Since the year 2000, when measles was declared eliminated in the United States, the number of cases per year in California has ranged from four to 40 cases,” Chavez said. Only two measles cases at the same time last year were reported, he said.

Chavez asked all people that haven’t been vaccinated and that are traveling outside of the Americas to get vaccinated before they go.

Children are recommended to get their first vaccines at 12 to 15 months of age.

The state does require all children entering public and private elementary schools, child care centers, nursery school and others to receive certain immunizations, including the measles vaccine, however, regulations do allow for a personal belief exemption.

Of the 15 measles cases, seven were intentionally unvaccinated under the exemption.

Chavez said there was no information that supports a theory that vaccinations are harmful to kids.

“We all know that has been debunked and we have no evidence absolutely that vaccines have any permanent, long lasting side effects on children.

“I think that that myth got started and continues to unfortunately play out,” he added.

Chavez said that illnesses that used to be a thing of the past are continuously wanting to make a comeback because we have people who choose not to be vaccinated because of that particular myth.

An update on influenza season was also given, showing that while flu activity remains at a widespread level in the state, outpatient visits and hospitalizations for the flu were at or below expected levels for this time of year, Chavez reported.

Chavez also confirmed 35 more deaths from the flu, amounting to a total of 278 deaths. There are 29 more cases that are currently being investigating and, Chavez added, are likely to be confirmed this week.