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Sonoma County health officials sound alarm on measles (w/video)

Sonoma County public health officials say they are deeply concerned about a sharp rise this year in measles cases statewide, since many Sonoma County parents reject the measles vaccine for their kids.

State health officials reported Friday that in the first two months of 2014, there have been 15 confirmed cases statewide, compared to only two during the same period last year.

Four of the 15 cases were in Bay Area counties: one in Alameda, two in Contra Costa and one in San Mateo. One recent case involved a UC Berkeley student who potentially exposed BART train riders.

Thus far no cases have been reported in Sonoma County, but local health officials said some communities are particularly at risk given the number of kids who are not vaccinated.

People who are unvaccinated need to know that the epidemiology of vaccine-preventable diseases and the risk of vaccine preventable diseases is changing — it's going up,” said Karen Holbrook, the county's interim public health officer.

“Even though we don't have any cases in Sonoma County, right now I'm concerned,” she said.

In a teleconference with reporters Friday, Kathleen Harriman of the California Department of Public Health said that fewer than 3 percent of kids statewide have not been vaccinated by the time they get to kindergarten. In these cases, the parents have received personal belief exemptions.

Holbrook said in Sonoma County, 6.3 percent of parents request such an exemption. But in the west county, nonvaccination rates are much higher, she said.

In Sebastopol Union and Twin Hills school districts, 40 percent or more of parents request personal belief exemptions, Holbrook said. A new law that took effect Jan. 1 now requires parents to obtain a signed statement from a heath care professional that shows they received medical information about the benefits and risks of vaccines.

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