Rise in Bay Area measles cases prompts warning by Sonoma County health official to vaccinate children

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As measles cases emerge in other parts of the Bay Area, a Sonoma County health official issued a letter to parents this week urging them to vaccinate their children and warning of a potential outbreak in the area.

“Sonoma County has been spared thus far, but we are vulnerable,” wrote Celeste Philip, county health officer. “Although childhood vaccination rates are 94 percent overall, in some county schools less than half of students are up to date with the recommended vaccination schedule.”

Two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is the most effective way to present an outbreak, Philip said. It takes two weeks to develop immunity after receiving a measles vaccine.

There have been 44 cases reported in California this year as of May 10, according to Philip.

If a measles case is reported at a school, students who are not vaccinated or cannot provide laboratory confirmation of measles immunity will be barred from school for 21 days following their last exposure to anyone with measles to limit the spread of the disease, Philip said.

“Schools and parents have the same goal: Ensuring the safety and health of each child so that they are free to learn,” Steve Herrington, county superintendent, said in a statement. “As we watch measles outbreaks impact the nation and parts of California, reliable information is crucial to helping parents make the best decision for their child.”

There have been more than 750 measles cases in the U.S. this year, the highest number of cases since the disease was thought by health officials to be eliminated in 2000.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne illness that is spread by sharing the same air with an infected person, especially if that person coughs or sneezes. Individuals are contagious four days before they develop a rash and may unknowingly make others ill.

Measles usually starts with a high fever, runny nose, red and irritated eyes, followed by a red, bumpy rash that starts on the face and moves down the body. Ear and throat infections are common complications. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia, brain swelling and death.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or On Twitter @susanmini

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