Measles virus spreads to Marin, infecting 2 children

Simone Wolberg

Two confirmed cases of the measles, a highly contagious airborne virus, are in Marin as of February 2, according to a California Department of Public Health (CDPH) official’s press release.

These two cases are unvaccinated siblings who were exposed outside of Marin, SF Chronicle reported.

In California, 92 children have been infected by the measles, according to the CDPH press release.

Fifty-eight of these cases are related to an outbreak which began at the Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, wrote Dr. Gil Chavez, State Epidemiologist at the CDPH, in an email interview.

Measles virus shown under a microscope
Measles virus shown under a microscope

Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer, recommended in an email to Redwood parents that students get two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, which is 99 percent effective against the measles.  Children should get their first and second dose by age six, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In the event of a case of measles at Redwood, any unvaccinated student will be excluded from attending school for 21 days, according to Willis.

Due to personal belief exemptions, 7.8  percent of Marin County children are unvaccinated, which is five percent above the California average, according to a 2012 Marin Health and Human Services report. California is one of 19 states to allow personal belief exemptions, which permit parents to opt-out of vaccinations for their children.

Although the measles is not always deadly, it is 18 times more contagious than Ebola, according to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control report. Infected people are contagious starting four days before symptoms develop.  Symptoms include rashes, high fever, red and irritated eyes, and a runny nose.

“The measles virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat of infected people.” Chavez wrote. “When they sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air and the droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for up to two hours.”

Principal David Sondheim added in his email to the Redwood community, “While it is important to stress that there is no immediate threat to Marin County, please know that we are ready to put the response plan into action quickly to protect our students.”