Los Angeles County public health officials said Monday that they’re investigating a measles cluster after reports of residents acquiring the vaccine-preventable virus.
Over the past few weeks, L.A. County has four confirmed measles cases linked to one another after international travel, and an additional single case of measles after international travel. These numbers exclude Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.
These five cases are the first measles incidents confirmed by the L.A. County Department of Public Health among L.A. County residents and the first cases of transmission within L.A. County in 2019. These cases are unrelated to the four non-resident cases that traveled through the county earlier this year. The majority of the cases occurred in people who had not been vaccinated, according to the health department.
The announcement about the cases was made because the chance of being exposed to measles has increased, given the sudden jump in local reports of the virus, along with widespread outbreaks in the U.S. — including in New York, Washington state, New Jersey and Michigan — and internationally.
As of Friday, an estimated 626 individual cases have been confirmed this year in 22 states, the second-highest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was declared eliminated in the country in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, 667 cases of measles were reported; in the coming weeks, 2019 confirmed case numbers will probably surpass 2014 levels, according to the CDC.
In Northern California, health workers are trying to control a growing outbreak in a region decimated by the Camp fire last November. As of Friday, at least 15 Californians had been diagnosed with measles as part of the outbreak that began last month in Butte County, according to health officials.
Officials urge residents who have not been fully immunized against measles — via two doses of the vaccine — to contact their healthcare provider. About 90% of people who have never been immunized against measles become ill one to three weeks after exposure.
“We will likely see additional measles cases in Los Angeles County, so it is important if you or someone you know has the symptoms of measles or has been exposed to measles to contact your healthcare provider by phone right away before seeking treatment,” L.A. County health officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a statement.
“The best way to protect yourself and to prevent the spread of measles is to get the measles immunization, with two doses of measles immunization being about 97% effective at preventing measles.”
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person, according to the CDC. Infected people can sicken those around them before they have symptoms and know they are infected, health officials said. The virus can be transmitted from one person to another up to four days before the onset of the rash, which usually begins as flat red spots that appear on a person’s face at the hairline and spread downward.
Common symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash that usually appears 10 to 21 days after the exposure. Anyone who thinks they have measles should contact their healthcare provider by phone before going in, so measures can be taken to prevent possible spread to others in the provider’s waiting room. They should also tell their doctor or other healthcare provider if they traveled internationally or had international visitors in the last three weeks or had exposure to another person with measles.
The following locations have been identified as potential measles exposures:
- Los Angeles International Airport, Tom Bradley International Terminal, arrived at Gate 218 on April 1 from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- UCLA, Franz Hall on April 2, 4, and 9, and Boelter Hall on April 2 and 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Cal State Los Angeles, Main Library, on April 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- El Pollo Loco Restaurant, 1939 Verdugo Blvd., La Canada Flintridge, on April 11 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- El Sauz Tacos, 4432 San Fernando Road, Glendale, on April 13 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
There is no known current risk related to measles that exists at any of these venues at this time.
Public health officials disclose this information in an attempt to reach people who might have been exposed to measles because they were present at these locations during the noted dates and times.