As many as 200 people may have been exposed to the measles virus after a 7-year-old girl visited the emergency department at the University of California Davis Medical Center with a rash that turned out to be measles. A 7-year-old boy with a terminal illness was evaluated in the same room as the patient with measles before doctors became aware of the virus and closed the room for cleaning, reports a local CBS affiliate.
Following exposure, the hospital sent out letters to the patients and other hospital visitors alerting them of possible exposure.
“You will need to notify your primary health care provider(s) and your child’s provider(s) of this possible exposure to discuss your possible risk of infection, vaccination history, and other questions you may have,” reads the letter. “If other family members were with you in the waiting room on the day of your visit, they will want to notify their doctors as well.”
Fortunately, the 7-year-old patient did not have measles 16 days after exposure, officials note it typically takes between eight and 12 days from the time of infection to develop symptoms, but it can also range from seven to 21 days. No other cases of measles or patients suffering from virus-related symptoms has been reported at the medical center, an official with Pediatric Infectious Diseases told the publication.
In the first three months of this year, the number of measles cases in the US has already surpassed all of 2018. Last year saw a total of 287 while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between January 1 and March 28 there have already been 387 individual cases confirmed in 15 states.
Health officials blame recent trends in so-called anti-vaxxers who refuse to vaccinate their children citing religious or philosophical concerns. (And, of course, the claim that vaccines cause autism. They don’t.) But there is one glaring issue with large pockets of people who do not receive their vaccinations. The spread of measles and other diseases is hindered by herd immunity, a concept that if a high enough percentage of a population is vaccinated then a virus can't get a hold and so it protects the broader population from becoming infected. Herd immunity protects those who cannot be vaccinated for a variety of health reasons, such as children too young to receive their vaccinations, pregnant woman, or immunosuppressant people such as the 7-year-old at UC Davis.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) – which are highly contagious and spread through coughing and sneezing – require between 90 and 95 percent of the population vaccinated. In the US, 91.1 percent of children aged 19 to 35 months have received their MMR vaccine – but that’s just an average and doesn’t necessarily account for hot spots of unvaccinated communities.
If you think you or your child may have measles, call ahead to the hospital, who can prepare for your arrival while ensuring minimal exposure to others.