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LA County Health Officials Are Investigating A Measles Outbreak

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A nurse prepares a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (Photo by Johannes EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Monday that it is investigating a measles outbreak in the area, at the same time widespread outbreaks are across the U.S. and internationally.

The department confirmed five known cases of the disease. Four are linked to one person who traveled internationally, and the fifth comes from a overseas traveler.

UCLA has confirmed one of the infected people is a student.

Sharon Balter, a director at LACDPH, monitors the spread of diseases in the county. She says the one of the fastest ways to catch measles is through travel.

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"A lot of people in LA travel to other places," she said, "a lot of people come visit us. We are definitely anticipating that there will be more and more importations."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that there are 626 individual measles cases across the country, which is high for this time of year. The numbers are on track to surpass the last massive U.S. measles outbreak in 2014 in just a matter of weeks.

"When measles was declared eradicated from the United States in 2000 it was really a remarkable feat," said Deborah Lehman, professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "And now it does feel like we're moving backwards from that historic public health milestone."

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The CDC reports a nationwide surge in measles cases so far this year. (Courtesy CDC)

Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread by coughing and sneezing. Other common symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and a rash which usually appears 10 to 21 days after the exposure.

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A quarter of people who get it will end up in the hospital. In rare cases, it can be fatal.

People who are unvaccinated and have traveled through the following places may be at risk:

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Gate 218 of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, on April 1 from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Franz Hall on April 2, 4, and 9 and Boelter Hall on April 2 and 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 6 :00 p.m. (UCLA announced in a press release the university is reaching out to students at risk.)
  • California State University, Los Angeles, Main Library, on April 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • El Pollo Loco Restaurant, 1939 Verdugo Blvd, La Cañada Flintridge, on April 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • El Sauz Tacos, 4432 San Fernando Rd, Glendale, on April 13 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

ARE YOU IMMUNE?

The measles vaccine is 97% effective after two doses. Most people will get these before kindergarten.

If you missed one of those shots as a kid, you might not be immune.

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"It's a really important question not to assume that you're protected but to ask the questions. Because it's a really serious disease that I think is underestimated," said Lehman.

She recommends patients check their medical records to make sure they're fully vaccinated. If you're not sure, your doctor can do a blood test to check.

UPDATES:

April 23, 1:05 p.m.: This article was updated with the locations where those infected with measles traveled.

April 23, 5:15 p.m.: This article was udpated with information about immunity.

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Alyssa Perry and Michelle Faust Raghavan contributed to this report.