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Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services announced today that a man admitted to a local hospital earlier this week has tested positive for measles.
The man, whose name and other identifying information will not be released, had recently traveled overseas, where he is believed to have contracted the illness. He was met at San Francisco International Airport by his family, driven to their Humboldt County home and then taken the next day to St. Joseph Hospital, where all appropriate precautions were taken to avoid additional infections.
The DHHS Public Health Laboratory confirmed the test results Monday night.
“At this point we have reason to believe Humboldt County dodged a bullet,” said Public Health Deputy Director Ira Singh. “Aside from health care workers and the man’s family, it appears that no one in Humboldt County has been exposed to the illness.”
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is handling notifications of people who may have been exposed outside of Humboldt County.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles is a potentially fatal disease caused by a highly contagious virus, which spreads when people touch or breathe in infectious droplets passed by coughing and sneezing.
Measles can begin with fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and red eyes. Middle ear infections, pneumonia, croup and diarrhea are common complications. Measles encephalitis occurs rarely but frequently results in permanent brain damage among survivors. Death is more common among infants and immunocompromised people, including those with leukemia or HIV infection.
“This incident underscores the importance of immunization,” said Eric Gordon, a Public Health nurse at DHHS. “Failure to vaccinate your children can put them and the people they come into contact with at risk.” The man in the Humboldt County case was unvaccinated.
Measles can be prevented by the combination measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. The CDC reports that in the decade before the measles vaccination program began in the U.S., an estimated 3 to 4 million people were infected each year, with as many as 500 deaths, 48,000 hospitalizations and 1,000 people chronically disabled from measles encephalitis.
More than 90 percent of measles cases in the U.S. originate from overseas but spread rapidly through any susceptible population. CDPH reports that in 2014, there have been 60 confirmed cases of measles in California. This is Humboldt County’s first case since 2011.
For more information about measles or other vaccine-preventable diseases, please phone Public Health at 445-6200, visit www.cdc.gov/measles or contact your medical provider.