Measles outbreak similar to wildfire, says Contra Costa health expert

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CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (KRON) — “A measles outbreak is similar to a wildfire, it can threaten the community,” said Paul Leung with the Contra Costa County Health Department.

The communicable disease programs chief for the Contra Costa County Health Department says that’s because measles is so contagious.

He says making sure you and your family are vaccinated against measles is like clearing dry brush in terms of helping keep your community safe.

“Because if there’s a spark, we can prevent it from spreading further and putting our community in danger and that’s sort of what happens with measles when we have one case and we have enough people around that case who are vaccinated,” Leung said.

And that’s what seems to be playing out in Washington where 800 school kids are being told to stay home in one county because more than 70 people, mostly unvaccinated kids under 18, have been sickened with the measles virus.

Unlike Washington, California has a law now on the books that aims to let fewer unvaccinated students into the school system, SB277.

The bill stripped away the personal belief exemption, so now only kids with a medical reason can skip getting their shots before entering public and private schools.

The state department of health says 95 percent of California kindergartners have gotten their required shots since the law went into effect — that’s the highest reported level on record.

According to the infectious diseases expert KRON4 talked to — the more vaccinated people that are in the community, the safer it is.

“Nineteen out of 20 people need to be vaccinated to prevent these outbreaks from happening. So every extra person we can get vaccinated — that helps protect us from these disease outbreaks,” Leung said.

California is only one of three states in the U.S. allowing only medical exemptions to vaccines.

The other two are Mississippi and West Virginia.

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