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California measles cases hit a 10-year high

September 21, 2011 | 12:28 pm

Photo: A child receives a measles vaccination shot as part of the Garden Grove Unified School District's free program to satisfy admission requirements for school. Credit: Los Angeles Times With more parents forgoing measles vaccinations for their children, the number of Californians contracting the highly contagious disease is higher than any time in the last decade.

As of Monday, there were 28 reported cases of measles in 2011, according to the California Department of Public Health. That is the highest incidence since 2001, when 40 people reported having measles. There were nine cases in all of 2009 and 27 cases in 2010.

Of the cases reported this year, 22 of the 28 were not vaccinated or very likely to lack the vaccine. More than half had recently traveled internationally, including to Europe, where vaccination rates have dropped and measles cases have risen.

“We are quite concerned in California as is I believe the rest of the country about increasing cases of measles,” said Gil Chavez, deputy director of the department’s Center for Infectious Diseases. “Even one single case that is acquired oversees can expose a lot of individuals when they come back home and in the airplane.”

Measles can cause ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, brain injuries and death. The vaccine, which was introduced in 1963, is free or low-cost for those who cannot afford it.

The high incidence is concerning to health officials, who worry that individual cases could lead to outbreaks in schools and communities. In 2008, a 7-year-old boy who had not been vaccinated triggered an outbreak in San Diego.

The number of non-vaccinated children has continued to grow over the last decade, as parents fear that vaccinations could cause autism, a belief repeatedly disproved in scientific literature. To opt out of the vaccine, parents simply fill out a form.

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-- Anna Gorman

Photo: A child receives a measles vaccination as part of the Garden Grove Unified School District's free program to satisfy admission requirements for school. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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