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Measles Scare In Mariposa County Involving High School Students

Mariposa, CA – Mariposa High School basketball players and spectators that attended a tournament in Turlock last month may have been exposed to measles and health officials now fear more students could be at risk.

This latest scare comes on the heels of another one just last month in Calaveras County, as reported here. In that case, a child was diagnosed with the disease after returning to her Valley Springs home from an overseas trip. The case even prompted an alert to neighboring Amador County residents that had also come in contact with the girl.

Mariposa County Health Officer Dr. Eric Sergienko was first alerted to the potential measles risk after receiving an encrypted email from the California Health Department’s communicable disease unit on Friday, March 29th. The email detailed that a woman who attended the March 21th tournament had been diagnosed with measles four days later and targeted three Mariposa players that she may have come in contact with directly for possible exposure.

Dr. Sergienko says his office sprang into action. “We worked to track down whether these players had been vaccinated since those who have received their shots have a 97 percent chance of not contracting the illness.”

Health officials learned that two players had their shots, but a thirds vaccine status was not known.  After consulting with state health officials, Dr. Sergienko shares it was determined that person did not need to be quarantines because the infected woman had been vaccinated years earlier.

“The concern with measles is that it has an incubation period of 4 days to 21 days after exposure so we are look out towards the middle of April until we are out of the woods,” acknowledges Dr. Sergienko.

Currently, he adds that no coaches, players or other students have showed symptoms. In a proactive move, health officials are offering free measles vaccine shots at their offices that began on Tuesday. Initially, about a dozen people took advantage of that offer, according to Dr. Sergienko.

Another worry is low vaccination rates in Mariposa County that mirror Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, as an article updating the condition of the child found to have measles in the latter county can be viewed here.

Dr. Sergienko concurred, “Like Tuolumne and other foothill counties, we have a low uptake of the vaccines as compared to the rest of the state. What we are able to pull out of the data base is that about 83 percent of our kids are vaccinated. That’s compared to about 91 percent for the rest of the state. So, if we apply that to our high school numbers we know there are about 85 out of our approximately 500 kids that are at risk.”

The counties vaccination rate is better for kindergarteners, confides Dr. Sergienko, since Governor Jerry Brown enacted SB277. It eliminated the personnel and religious belief exemption.

Still in existence, however, is the medical exemption. It allows a doctor to opt a child out of being vaccinated. That exemption has recently also came under fire as a new bill (SB276) seeks to put the final decision to not vaccinate in the hands of state public health officials, as reported here last month.

It is a measure Dr. Sergienko supports pointing to this state health department graph below that as of Wednesday (April 3) shows there have been 17 confirmed measles cases in nine counties, including 11 outbreak-associated cases reported.  Two of those are in nearby Butte and Placer counties.

State confirmed measels cases

California Department of Public Health graph

Bottom-line says Dr. Sergienko, “It is important to get vaccinated so we don’t go from having it [measles] being an eliminated disease to being a disease that is present on a reoccurring basis.”