by Ryan Burns
A 22-year-old Humboldt County woman has been diagnosed with measles, the first case of the highly infectious disease here in more than a decade. The county's public health branch is alerting residents who may have been exposed to the disease and asking them to contact their medical care providers (and stay home) if symptoms appear.
You may have been exposed if you were at the following restaurants during the time period stated:
The China Buffet, 1835 4th St. in Eureka on Friday, May 20 between 1 and 4 p.m.
Hometown Buffet in the Bayshore Mall on Monday, May 23 after 5 p.m.
Hometown Buffet on Tuesday between 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m.
If you were at the China Buffet during that time period you should watch carefully for symptoms until June 10, after which time the incubation period will have passed, meaning you're in the clear. If you were at Hometown Buffet, the safe zone arrives June 14.
Initial symptoms of measles resemble the flu: red eyes, runny nose, cough and a fever. The telltale rash typically takes a few days to appear, said Public Health Officer Dr. Ann Lindsay. Again, anyone with symptoms should a) stay home, and b) contact your medical provider. If you don't have one, call the county public health branch at 445-6200.
Here's why this is so scary: Among people who have not been vaccinated (or who were born after 1957 -- older Americans are presumed immune), 90 percent of those who are exposed will become infected. More information here.
Measles outbreaks have taken hold in Europe (3,500 reported cases) and Asia (the Humboldt County woman contracted the disease after traveling to China). The U.S. is on pace to have the most cases it's seen in more than a decade. The problem is exacerbated by parents who are superstitious about vaccines, choosing to protect their children from the thoroughly debunked notion that the MMR vaccine causes autism rather than the well-documented -- and potentially lethal -- risk of a measles infection.
Measles vaccines are available through most family practice doctors and pediatricians as well as the county's Public Health Branch (again, 445-6200). The $15 fee for kids can be waived if parents can't afford it. The adult vaccine costs $90.
The tentative good news is that no other cases have yet been identified here, but Dr. Lindsay said she "fully expects" this won't be the last case we see for another 10-plus years.
The county's news release is here.