Updated Feb. 2: The number of confirmed cases of measles in California is now 92, with 18 of those cases in persons ages 5 through 19, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The largest outbreak of measles in California in years is prompting school officials to redouble their efforts to convince parents to vaccinate their children.

Sheri Coburn, the president-elect of the California School Nurses Organization, said the push for immunization is “one positive thing” to come from the rash of cases – now at 73 statewide – of the highly contagious and sometimes serious illness. The majority of cases are linked to exposure to the measles virus at two Disney theme parks.

“We continue to advocate for people to be vaccinated,” Coburn said, noting that three-quarters of those who contracted measles were “not vaccinated at all,” referring to the Disney outbreak.

The push for immunization is ‘one positive thing’ to come from the measles outbreak, said Sheri Coburn, president-elect of the California School Nurses Organization.

State law requires children to be vaccinated for a variety of illnesses by the time they enter kindergarten. But parents may obtain “personal belief exemptions” from the required vaccinations, making their children more vulnerable to contracting potentially fatal illnesses and transmitting the viruses to others.

The proportion of parents seeking those exemptions varies greatly from district to district, and even from school to school, as noted in an earlier EdSource report.

The number of school-age children with confirmed cases of measles in California reached 13 on Monday. The outbreak has prompted many school districts to take action, including emailing measles alerts to parents, urging them to vaccinate their children if they haven’t already, and referring families to free immunization clinics.

In San Bernardino County, for example, public health and school officials collaborated on a letter that districts can send to parents or post on their websites. The letter recommends that children who have not had a measles vaccination “have that done,” said Dan Evans, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.

In the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, where a freshman baseball coach contracted measles, school nurses and public health investigators last week quickly scrutinized the immunization records of baseball team members and found that all were up to date. Following advice from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, the district did not exclude any students from school, regardless of their vaccination status, because exposure appeared to be limited.

However, parents have received letters from school nurses and the district superintendent, and in the case of Santa Monica High, a letter from principal Eva Mayoral urging that “all students be up to date with all immunizations.”

Los Angeles Unified’s District Nursing Communicable Disease Control Team has mobilized, with school nurses teaming up with county public health investigators to track suspected cases of measles; five cases have been investigated, but none of them has proved to be measles.

Nurses in the Laguna Beach Unified School District have sent letters to parents of unvaccinated students urging them to have their children immunized. And Oceanside Unified posted on its website a letter from the San Diego public health department encouraging vaccinations and thanking parents for taking steps to protect their families and the community from measles.

Even in Santa Clara Unified, far from Disneyland, the school district last week posted a message from the county’s public health department on its website that was both a call for calm and a call to action. Two cases of measles have been reported in Santa Clara County, both of them in adults.

“We want to reassure parents that there is no need to be alarmed,” the message on the website stated. “If your children have been vaccinated, they are protected from catching measles. However, a measles outbreak serves as an important reminder that everyone does need to make sure that they are either immune or have been vaccinated against measles.”


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Dr. Gilberto F. Chávez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health, has made it clear that if a school has a student with a confirmed case of measles, districts should send unvaccinated students home.

“That is standard practice in this state,” Chávez said in a telephone press briefing. “If there is a child with measles in a school setting, the expectation is that the rest of the children who are not immunized need to be excluded from that school.”

So far, Huntington Beach High, with an enrollment of about 3,000 students, is the only known school where students have been sent home as a result of the disease.

A case of measles at the school came to light when a parent, whose unvaccinated daughter was sent home, appeared on a television news show to explain her child’s medical exemption to the measles vaccine.

Officials at the school initially notified 24 students that they would have to stay home because they were not vaccinated, but four of those students provided evidence of vaccination, said Pamela Kuhn, a certified school nurse and coordinator of health and wellness for the Orange County Department of Education.

News that the unvaccinated students were being kept at home has generated calls and emails overwhelmingly in favor of the decision to exclude unvaccinated children from attending classes, she said. “I’m getting more calls supporting our decision to exclude,” Kahn said.

The students will be out of school for 21 days, which is the length of time it takes before the measles could appear. They are scheduled to return to school on Friday.

Measles has been confirmed in patients from seven months to 70 years old by 11 county or local public health agencies: Alameda, Long Beach City, Los Angeles, Orange, Pasadena City, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura, according to the California Department of Public Health. Earlier last week, before the numbers increased, the department said that 25 percent of the cases required hospitalization.

The “great majority” of the cases involve unvaccinated people, Chávez said.

The highly contagious virus was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2ooo, but an increase in the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children has led to outbreaks, Chávez said. Parents who say it is safer not to vaccinate their children are basing their decision on “pure misinformation,” he said.


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  1. Manuel 1 year ago1 year ago

    I almost went into The Google to look up the articles on how that Brit was exposed (I once read the whole sordid sage), then I realized that those who believe vaccination is all a threat to their well-being did not grow up when polio was rampant. And when getting a cut meant a good chance of catching tetanus. Or... But measles? Meh, just a few kids die of it, what could go wrong? Sigh... I know that … Read More

    I almost went into The Google to look up the articles on how that Brit was exposed (I once read the whole sordid sage), then I realized that those who believe vaccination is all a threat to their well-being did not grow up when polio was rampant. And when getting a cut meant a good chance of catching tetanus. Or…

    But measles? Meh, just a few kids die of it, what could go wrong?

    Sigh…

    I know that health authorities can ban children from school for some time for not being vaccinated. But can they do it indefinitely, that is, completely deny them admission? Or do they have to wait for an epidemy to be raging?

  2. Andrew 1 year ago1 year ago

    Why would a sub-set of parents, some highly educated, resist the calls from the public health and medical world for vaccination of their school aged children? Could it have something to do with all the flip-flops in the medical/public health arena? For years until a couple of years ago, men are told, under penalty of cancer death, they absolutely needed routine prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing for prostate cancer. Now they are told … Read More

    Why would a sub-set of parents, some highly educated, resist the calls from the public health and medical world for vaccination of their school aged children?

    Could it have something to do with all the flip-flops in the medical/public health arena? For years until a couple of years ago, men are told, under penalty of cancer death, they absolutely needed routine prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing for prostate cancer. Now they are told such routine PSA tests are worse than useless. For decades we are told we need to eat a diet low in cholesterol, fat, and saturated fat in order to minimize obesity and heart disease. Then in 2014 an article on a well designed study in the highly regarded peer reviewed medical journal, Annal of Internal Medicine confirms developing evidence that the exact opposite is true, and shows that low carb high fat diet produced the greatest weight loss and lowest indicators of heart disease. And much more like that. Promote enough bad science as gospel, hype it hard, and then reverse yourself, and people will stop believing everything you tell them, even at their own peril.

    Mercury is known to be an extraordinarily toxic chemical element. Thiomersal is an organomercury established to be “very toxic by inhalation, ingestion, and in contact with skin” and “at concentrations relevant for infants’ exposure (in vaccines) is toxic to cultured human-brain cells and to laboratory animals.” It distributes to all body tissues and crosses the blood-brain barrier and placental barrier. Why in the world would humans inject this mercury substance into themselves with syringes? To save a few cents, of course. Adding Thiomersal as a preservative to a vial of vaccine allows a number of syringes to be stuck into the the vial and filled from it. Without Thiomersal, it costs a few more cents per vaccination to use single-use vials or pre-loaded syringes. Thiomersal was finally reluctantly removed from most, but not all, childhood vaccines, though it is still found in many influenza vaccines. Would an educated person question the credibility and safety of an industry/bureaucracy that continues to needlessly inject mercury into humans to save a few cents?

    Childhood vaccination is critical and saves lives in the big picture. A walk through a 150 year old cemetery with lots of children’s gravestones from prior to widespread vaccination confirms this. Herd immunity is a key concept and if enough are not vaccinated, all are at risk. But even as they blame and ridicule those who are skeptical about vaccination, those in the medical community and public health need to ask how much their own eager embrace and promotion and eventual retraction of bad and questionable science has contributed to the skepticism.

    Replies

    • el 1 year ago1 year ago

      Quite specifically, a man named Andrew Wakefield committed a substantial fraud involving the MMR vaccine to his personal financial benefit, and incidentally also violated standards of care and ethics in subjecting developmentally challenged children to inappropriate and unnecessary medical testing. The paper was falsified and he hoped to reap large financial rewards from the scare. He lost his UK medical license after a trial. As for the concern with mercury, please stay away from any compounds … Read More

      Quite specifically, a man named Andrew Wakefield committed a substantial fraud involving the MMR vaccine to his personal financial benefit, and incidentally also violated standards of care and ethics in subjecting developmentally challenged children to inappropriate and unnecessary medical testing. The paper was falsified and he hoped to reap large financial rewards from the scare. He lost his UK medical license after a trial.

      As for the concern with mercury, please stay away from any compounds of sodium, hydrogen, or oxygen, all of which are dangerous explosives and obviously harmful. But, as you say, thimerosal-free vaccines are completely available for measles.

      • Andrew 1 year ago1 year ago

        I was looking at the review of potential Thimerosal toxicity in the Journal - Neurochemical Research, June 2011, Vol 36, Issue 6, pp 927-938, where the review found . . ."Major databases (PubMed and Web-of-science) were searched for in vitro and in vivo experimental studies that addressed the effects of low-dose Thimerosal (or ethylmercury) on neural tissues and animal behaviour. Information extracted from studies indicates that: (a) activity of low doses of Thimerosal against isolated … Read More

        I was looking at the review of potential Thimerosal toxicity in the Journal – Neurochemical Research, June 2011, Vol 36, Issue 6, pp 927-938, where the review found . . .”Major databases (PubMed and Web-of-science) were searched for in vitro and in vivo experimental studies that addressed the effects of low-dose Thimerosal (or ethylmercury) on neural tissues and animal behaviour. Information extracted from studies indicates that: (a) activity of low doses of Thimerosal against isolated human and animal brain cells was found in all studies and is consistent with Hg neurotoxicity;”

        If Wakefield is a fraud, does that prove that Thimerosal is safe, non-neurotoxic?

        I haven’t seen studies suggesting low dose toxicity of hydrogen and oxygen, water specifically, or sodium, as in salt. Since any injection of Thimerosal is entirely gratuitous, why accept any exposure to the potential neurotoxicity? I’ll pay the ten cents for my own single dose vial in addition to the $30 I pay for a flu shot, will not get injected with neurotoxic mercury, and will get the added benefit of not having a bunch of other people’s (hopefully clean) needles stuck in the same vial used on me.

        • el 1 year ago1 year ago

          Again, all the required childhood vaccines are now thimerosal free in the United States and have been for some time, in order to make the question moot.

    • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

      Ha -- this sounds like the way some would describe education "reform" true believers: "... their own eager embrace and promotion and eventual retraction of bad and questionable science ..." Realistically, those in medicine who promote beliefs that then are discredited and retracted probably were simply doing the best they could with the information they had (and probably many who promote education "reform" fads are too). Antivaxxing is a fad in certain privileged and heedless … Read More

      Ha — this sounds like the way some would describe education “reform” true believers: “… their own eager embrace and promotion and eventual retraction of bad and questionable science …”

      Realistically, those in medicine who promote beliefs that then are discredited and retracted probably were simply doing the best they could with the information they had (and probably many who promote education “reform” fads are too).

      Antivaxxing is a fad in certain privileged and heedless social subgroups — see the satirical @LosFelizDayCare Twitter account for a satirical parody of the more amusing aspects, though antivaxxing isn’t funny.

      • Andrew 1 year ago1 year ago

        Education fads seem to cycle through to the discredited phase more quickly than medical fads, bad medicine, so teachers get to deal with more of them in a given time span. In medicine, it is a Max Planck thing, the noted physicist. He said . . . "A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new … Read More

        Education fads seem to cycle through to the discredited phase more quickly than medical fads, bad medicine, so teachers get to deal with more of them in a given time span. In medicine, it is a Max Planck thing, the noted physicist. He said . . .

        “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

        In medicine, you sometimes have to wait for the true believers to kick for the scientific truth to prevail.

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