Sacramento Bee

Nevada County measles case shuts school

March 29, 2016

State Sen. Richard Pan on Tuesday responded to a report of measles at a Nevada County school, saying that recently enacted legislation will boost immunity in the future.

Pan, D-Sacramento, made his statement after news that a measles outbreak involving a student at Yuba River Charter School had resulted in the closing of the campus on Tuesday.

A posting on the school website notes that the school would re-open on Wednesday, but only students with up-to-date vaccinations would be allowed to attend. Students and staff who do not have immunity documentation on file will not be able to return to campus until April 8.

Only one case of measles had been confirmed among students at the school as of Tuesday and that confirmation was made over the weekend, said Patti Carter, emergency preparedness coordinator with the Nevada County Health and Human Services Agency. She said the school was on spring break through Monday and remained closed Tuesday to allow opportunity to notify parents and staff members.

The unvaccinated student was infectious while at school on March 17, according to a county health department news release.

A spokeswoman at the school Tuesday afternoon said the staff was overwhelmed with inquiries and didn’t have time speak with a reporter.

Pan noted that records show that only bout 43 percent of kindergarten students who entered the school in the fall were up-to-date with vaccinations.

“Measles is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening disease,” said Pan, a leader in the fight to require immunizations.

He said provisions of Senate Bill 277, passed last year, will boost community immunity and prevent outbreaks like the one occurring in Nevada County.

“When schools begin to implement the new law this fall and more children are vaccinated, we will begin to boost our immunity levels which have declined to dangerously low levels in many communities in the state,” Pan said in a news release.

Pan said that 94 percent of people in a community need to be vaccinated to prevent an outbreak of measles. When a neighborhood loses “community immunity” some who cannot be immunized, such as infants, are at increased risk, he said.

Opponents of California's vaccine mandate law who advocated against SB 277 say that the government doesn’t have the right to tell citizens what they can and can’t put in their bodies.

The bill made California the third state in the nation to require vaccines without religious and personal belief exemptions.

Opponents also argued it would deprive unvaccinated children of their constitutional right to an education

Pan's interest in the issue stemmed from his career as a pediatrician. He worked in Philadelphia during a measles outbreak that killed nine and said he had grown increasingly alarmed by increases in cases of measles and pertussis.

The Nevada County Health and Human Services Agency notes that the disease easily spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing. Measles causes a rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes.

Measles lasts for a week or two. It can be spread from four days before a rash occurs to four days after, according to the health department.

Complications from measles are more common in young children and those with suppressed immune systems. Death can occur from severe complications.

There is no treatment for measles. Bed rest, fluids and control of fever are recommended.