A shocking 49 measles cases have been reported in California to date in 2014, up from only four at this same time last year.
The outbreak is reigniting public health concerns over the anti-vaccination movement; while releasing its data at the end of March, the California Department of Public Health urged residents to consider the startling outbreak’s implications.
“This dramatic jump in the number of measles cases is a reminder to get fully vaccinated,” Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer, said in a statement. “Being fully vaccinated against measles does more than just protect the person who receives the vaccination -- it also protects their family and friends, including children who may be too young to be vaccinated.”
Despite it being only three months into 2014, this is the first year that the number of measles cases in California has surpassed 40 since 2000, when the highly contagious disease was declared eradicated in the U.S., KQED reports.
Affected Northern California counties include Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Mateo, but a staggering 21 cases have been reported in Orange County, home to many affluent communities where anti-vaccination clusters tend to flourish, OC Weekly reports. California is one of 19 states that allow personal belief exemptions from school immunization requirements, and exemptions filed for the county's incoming kindergarteners rose 20 percent from fall 2012 to fall 2013, compared to a 15 increase across the state, according to the Orange County Register.
“The fact that there is... an anti-vaccine movement questioning the importance, the utility of getting the [measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine] dose, means that from our side, you never look forward to these events,” Dr. Matt Zahn of the county’s Health Care Agency told the Register.
“These events are the last thing you want to have happen. At the same time, it is worth mentioning to people: This is why you have to get your MMR. This is why this vaccine is important. These outbreaks can be prevented.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is a respiratory disease that causes fever, runny nose, cough and a full-body rash. In extreme cases, it can lead to death and cause pregnant women to miscarry or deliver prematurely.