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County reports possible measles exposure at Turlock basketball event
This photograph depicts the face of a young boy with measles, which was captured on the third day of its characteristic rash (Photo courtesy of the CDC). - photo by Photo Contributed

The county health department is alerting the public that a person infected with measles attended a local high school basketball event.  

The Stanislaus County Public Health department was made aware of a possible measles exposure when a person attended the 5th annual Central Valley Senior Showcase on March 21 at Turlock High School. This individual was infectious for measles at the time of attendance.

The event, hosted by the Turlock Journal, had a crowd of over 200 in attendance for two all-star high school basketball games. The showcase featured players from Stanislaus County, Merced County, San Joaquin County and Mariposa County.

Stanislaus County Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan said the person who was infected with measles was a spectator of the event who came to Turlock from out of the county.

People who attended the game and who are not immune to measles may be at risk of developing measles and should watch for symptoms of the illness, said Vaishampayan. Common symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash, which can appear seven to 21 days after the exposure.

Vaishampayan said while the health department doesn’t think this was a “high-risk exposure,” It’s important for those in attendance to be watchful for symptoms of measles.

“If they get sick, they need to know it might be measles because the worst case would be to go to a hospital without knowing it could be measles,” she said.

Vaishampayan emphasized the need for those who are sick and could have been exposed to measles to let any medical facility know before going to an appointment.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

The CDC has reported an increase in measles cases over the past several years. There were 372 confirmed cases of measles in 2018 and 314 cases just in the first three months of 2019. California is one of 15 states that have reported cases of measles in 2019.

In 2019, two outbreaks linked to patients with international travel have been reported in California — this does not include the case involving the basketball event attendee. As of March 27, there were 16 confirmed measles cases, including 11 outbreak-associated cases reported.

The last large outbreak of measles in California was associated with Disneyland and occurred from December 2014 through April 2015, when at least 131 California residents were infected with measles. That outbreak also infected residents of six other states, Mexico, and Canada.

According to Vaishampayan, two doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best protection against contracting the measles virus. Measles immunizations are available at healthcare provider offices or local pharmacies.

The public health officer said that Stanislaus County has a very good vaccination rate.

“It does lower our concern a lot,” she said.

Stanislaus County has MMR vaccines for people who are uninsured. For information on getting a free vaccine, call 209-558-7000.