SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — The Orange County Health Department held an emergency meeting Tuesday in response to an outbreak of measles.
Health officials called the meeting to discuss ways to handle the unexpected outbreak, which authorities say is the biggest measles outbreak in the state.
Twenty-one O.C. residents have been diagnosed in 2014 and 7 hospitalized. The number of cases in the first two months of 2014 far exceeds statistics from the past five years, when only three cases were reported.
O.C. Health Deputy Agency Director Eric Handler and Medical Director Matt Zahn have not seen an outbreak like this in two decades. They say people are not getting immunized, and could contract pneumonia or encephalitis.
"It's very contagious, and what we're trying to do is prevent the exposure and spread," said Dr. Handler. "The measles virus can cause inflammation in the brain that can appear immediately, or seven years out."
Neighboring counties have also seen an increase in 2014. Riverside County has seen five cases, and 10 cases have been reported in L.A. County.
To try to curb the spread of the disease, the O.C. Health Department has set up a satellite clinic on its Santa Ana property, where staff will test and vaccinate. But officials warn those who could be infected not to show up without warning and risk spreading the disease.
"Don't just go into the middle of the hospital to get tested. Talk to your provider on the phone first, who can maybe talk to us, we can make sure you get tested and treated without exposing other people," Dr. Zahn said.
The measles vaccine lasts a lifetime. Individuals who are unsure if they have been vaccinated are urged to go to a primary care physician to find out.
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