Measles outbreak spreads but spares Central Valley so far

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The measles outbreak that started at Disneyland is now spreading to people who were not at the park. (KFSN)

The measles outbreak that started at Disneyland is now spreading to people who were not at the park. State health officials say more than 50 people now have symptoms and more are expected. Those most at risk are children who have not been vaccinated.

Vaccinations are required in California Schools, but Diane Torna, the Director of Health Services at Fresno Unified School District says parents are allowed to obtain exemptions, due to their personal beliefs.

Torna said, "State law does allow parents to sign up for a personal beliefs exemption but they have to do that with their physician or health care provider."

While the number of such exemptions is rising very few students throughout the region are not vaccinated. Most schools report 100% of incoming kindergarten students have been immunized. But there are exceptions. Five schools in Fresno County have exceeded what's called the "herd immunity level," the level at which the number of unvaccinated poses a risk.

Foothill Elementary in Aubery had 13 unvaccinated students, or 18 percent of the kindergarten class. Cole and Tarpey Schools in Clovis each had a dozen unvaccinated kindergartners from nearly 9 to more than 10 percent. Anything more than 8 percent is considered risky for the rest of the unvaccinated population. 5 other schools in Madera, Tulare and Mariposa Counties exceeded the threshold.

The risk is to other unvaccinated children in school, and to family members, especially infants. But Torna notes state law requires schools to keep close records.

Torna explained, "We do know exactly what students are immunized with our district and who are not and at any time we are able to get that information so if there was an outbreak we would be able to identify students who have not been immunized."

One Orange County school just sent all unvaccinated children home for three weeks, because one student came down with measles.

Norma Sanchez the Communicable Disease Specialist at the Fresno County Health Department notes anyone carrying measles can easily contaminate others.
Sanchez said, "They are very highly contagious four days prior to the rash and four days after the last rash."

She says droplets from coughs or sneezes can remain active on surfaces for up to two hours. But she also notes the disease has not been detected in Fresno County for 20 years.

Sanchez added, "So far in Fresno County no cases since 1994, so that's a good thing that means people are vaccinating their children."

The hope is that will continue. However, according to a Los Angeles Times survey the number of kindergartners entering school without being vaccinated has doubled in 7 years. According to the paper 950 classrooms throughout the state fail to meet the 92% vaccination threshold.

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