County health officials warn to protect against potential measles outbreak

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The county’s Health and Human Services Agency reminded residents Friday to vaccinate their children against measles after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed cases in 22 states.

The current U.S. measles outbreak is the largest on record since the disease was declared eliminated from the country in 2000. The CDC issued a statement Thursday that it has confirmed 695 measles cases in 22 states so far in 2019.

Health officials believe the outbreak is due in part to parents who forego vaccinating their children over concern for their safety, including the debunked claim of a link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders.

“This current outbreak is deeply troubling and I call upon all healthcare providers to assure patients about the efficacy and safety of the measles vaccine,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, “and, I encourage all Americans to adhere to CDC vaccine guidelines in order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from measles and other vaccine preventable diseases.”

The county HHSA has not documented a case of measles since 2017, but officials suggested that could soon change due to areas of the county with low vaccination rates. Roughly 95 percent of the county’s more then 47,000 kindergartners have received all or some of their recommended vaccines, according to the county.

While the outbreak has not yet touched San Diego County, Los Angeles County health officials announced Thursday that they quarantined roughly 300 students and faculty members at UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles who may have been exposed to the disease.

Los Angeles County health officials also sought to contact more than 1,500 additional people at the two universities who may have been exposed by five people with confirmed cases. They also confirmed a new case of the disease in a person who flew in and out of LAX April 18.

San Diego County issued the warning on the eve of National Infant Immunization Week, which runs from April 27 to May 4. The HHSA also issued a warning to local physicians to stay vigilant for signs of an impending measles outbreak.

“Because of vaccines, most parents have not seen first-hand the devastating consequences of diseases,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Immunizations are one of the most important tools we have in public health.”

The CDC recommends that children receive a vaccine for 16 diseases and viruses, including measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and polio. Children and teenagers are also advised to receive boosters for various vaccines after receiving the initial immunization.

The CDC estimates that childhood vaccines have prevented an estimated 855,000 deaths and 381 million illnesses in the U.S. from 1994 to 2016.

County residents can contact the HHSA’s immunization department at 866- 358-2966 or Residents without health insurance can get their children vaccinated for free at one of the county’s health centers or certain retail pharmacies.

A listing of the county’s health centers can be found by calling 211.

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