Two visitors from Europe are suspected of falling ill with measles in Ventura County, prompting public health officials to remind the public to get vaccinated.
Health authorities said one of the visitors was confirmed to have measles, and the other is suspected of contracting the highly contagious disease. The cases were in eastern Ventura County, which borders Los Angeles County.
The confirmation of measles comes as cases of the disease have been on the rise in the United States, despite it being virtually eradicated in this country in 2000. Over a nine-month period in 2011, there were 28 reported cases of measles in California--the highest in a decade.
Public health officials are concerned about the return of measles as more parents forgo vaccinations for their children. Measles, transmitted through coughing and sneezing, can cause ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, brain injuries and death. Cases can quickly spread in schools and communities, especially in areas with a high concentration of children who haven't been vaccinated.
According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half the cases of measles in the United States in 2011 came from people arriving from Europe.
In 2008, a 7-year-old boy triggered a measles outbreak in San Diego after he returned, infected, from a family trip to Switzerland. The boy infected his two siblings and nine other children at his public charter school and a doctor's office. His parents had chosen not to vaccinate him or his siblings. About 70 children had to be quarantined at home.
The number of children without vaccinations has grown over the last decade, partly because of parent fears of a link between the shots and autism, a theory repeatedly disproved in scientific literature.
“Measles is a completely preventable disease, and although it has been virtually eliminated in the United States, it still kills 200,000 people worldwide each year,” Dr. Paul Russell, acting Ventura County Public Health Officer, said in a statement. “Measles is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease.”
Out of every 1,000 who get the disease, one or two will die and many more will require hospitalization, according to the CDC.