3 cases of measles in Bay Area, follows outbreak in Pacific Northwest

Health officials confirmed this week at least three Bay Area residents in Santa Clara, San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties have contracted measles, two of them from the other person in the same airplane flight.

In February, an adult Santa Cruz County resident with measles was on an international flight that landed at San Francisco International Airport, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. It’s unclear whether that person knew he or she had measles at the time.

Since then, two other passengers on that flight caught the disease — one, an adult male from San Francisco, and the other, a child from Santa Clara County.

In a health advisory issued Tuesday, San Francisco health officials confirmed that a San Francisco adult had been diagnosed with measles — the first in the city since 2013. KTVU asked Santa Clara County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han if the patients had been vaccinated.

"I can't answer that question, but I do know in pretty much all measles outbreaks, the majority of people who get measles are not vaccinated," said Han.

The Pacific Northwest in general has seen an uptick in measles as well.

Last week, public health officials in Oregon announced a new case of the highly contagious disease unrelated to an ongoing outbreak in Washington state that's sickened 68 people so far.

An unvaccinated Illinois resident who spent time overseas visited Portland International Airport and various locations in Salem, Oregon last week while contagious with measles, the Oregon Health Authority said. Potential exposure locations include a Red Robin restaurant and a trampoline fun park in Salem, officials said.

The case is unrelated to an ongoing measles outbreak in southwest Washington state that's sickened dozens. Public health officials in Clark County, Washington, said three new cases were identified Friday and two more are suspected.

That brings the number of cases in the Portland, Oregon bedroom community of Vancouver, Washington, to 68 - more than 40 percent of the number reported nationwide since Jan. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated statistics released Friday.

There have been 159 measles cases identified nationwide through Feb. 21, the CDC said, and Washington accounted for 69 of those. There have been six outbreaks nationwide, including in Illinois, Texas, New York City and Monroe and Rockland counties in New York state. An outbreak is defined as three or more cases at a time.

Most cases in Washington are young children under age 10 who were not vaccinated.

The viral illness has a long incubation period and 21 days must pass without a new case before the outbreak could be considered over in southwest Washington, said Dr. Alan Melnick, public health director in Clark County, Washington.

State legislatures in both Washington and Oregon are considering laws that would remove non-medical exemptions for the routinely administered measles vaccine. Both states currently allow parents to opt out of the measles immunizations if they have a religious or philosophical objection. In 2016, California required virtually all public and private school students to be vaccinated against contagious illnesses. 

This latest Bay Area outbreak comes the same week the CDC released a report about another Bay Area measles outbreak last March. That started when a 15-year-old boy flew from England to Santa Clara County.

In that outbreak, seven people contracted measles, six of which had not been vaccinated because their parents made that decision when the patients were children.

Health officials say the general public is at very low risk of measles as a results of these latest cases, because the flight was more than three weeks ago which is the time it takes measles to develop.

They encourage residents to make sure they are current on their vaccinations, especially if traveling abroad.