Electron microscope image of the virus responsible for measles (paramyxoviridae) Photographer: Alain Grillet Copyright Sanofi Pasteur
Electron microscope image of the virus responsible for measles (paramyxoviridae). Photo: Alain Grillet/Copyright Sanofi Pasteur

UPDATE, 3.9.15: The City of Berkeley’s public health department has ruled out a recent suspected case of measles at branches of the Berkeley Public Library. In a release issued today, the city wrote:

The individual suspected of possibly exposing people at the West Branch and Central Libraries last week to measles has been found to not have the virus, meaning that employees and visitors during those times were not at increased risk.

“The finding that the person was not infected with measles was confirmed through testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one of several partner agencies that City of Berkeley Public Health works with to combat infectious diseases.

“California and the Bay Area continue to experience a measles outbreak, so individuals who are not sure whether they are immune to measles should check with their health care provider.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Berkeley’s public health officer posted a release Friday afternoon on the city’s website about a possible new measles exposure in Berkeley.

The statement said the incident was a reminder to vaccinate.

The alert follows another one which was released on Feb. 26 about an adult with measles who visited La Mediterranée restaurant in the Elmwood neighborhood on the evening of Friday Feb. 20.

The text of today’s release follows:

An adult who may have measles (it has not yet been confirmed) was at the City of Berkeley West Branch Library throughout the day on February 27 and February 28, and was at the Central Branch Library on the afternoon of February 27 only. Individuals who were at these locations could have been exposed. Patrons of these libraries during these dates should monitor themselves for symptoms until March 21. The risk is very slight for those who have received the recommended two doses of the measles vaccine.

On the days in question, the person had not yet developed the tell-tale rash — a circumstance that contributes to the rapid spread of the highly infectious, airborne virus — so did not know that the illness might be measles. Symptoms can develop between 7 and 21 days after exposure to the virus.

If those exposed develop fever and a facial rash, they should contact their health care provider for advice and assistance. Those at highest risk are those who are unvaccinated, infants, pregnant women, and those with impaired immunity.

“I encourage Berkeley community members to make sure they and their children have received the required two doses,” said Dr. Janet Berreman, Berkeley’s Health Officer. “Obtaining records of your vaccination could prove critical in the event of a local outbreak.”

Measles is highly preventable. The recommended two doses of MMR vaccine protects 99% of people even if they are exposed to the virus. Even a single dose protects 95% of those vaccinated.

Berkeley Public Health is working with the libraries to notify and assess individuals who may have been exposed at the facilities. The individual who may have measles is a Contra Costa resident. Berkeley Public Health will work closely with the Contra Costa Public Health Department to follow up, as needed, should measles infection be confirmed.

California is experiencing a large measles outbreak that has now spread to other states. There have been at least 132 cases statewide that have reached six Bay Area counties, including Alameda County. New cases continue to emerge. The origin of the infection in this suspected case of measles is unknown at this time. Public health officials around the state have been working to track cases and limit exposure to others through quarantines and tracing the populations of those possibly infected.

Measles can have significant health impacts, especially among infants and pregnant women. Patients develop high fevers, red and watery eyes, high fevers, and a rash that starts on the head and face and spreads to cover most of the body. In some cases,measles can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, hospitalization or even death.

Two doses of MMR vaccine are recommended, starting at 12 months of age. The second dose can be given as soon as 28 days after the first dose. In high risk situations, infants as young as 6 months of age can receive the vaccine.

Adults born before 1957 are considered immune because of the prevalence of measles prior to the emergence of the vaccine. Other adults who were not vaccinated as children, or are not sure of their immune status, can also receive the MMR vaccine.

Members of the community who have further questions can contact Berkeley Public Health at 981-5300 or publichealth@cityofberkeley.

Other resources:

Berkeley reports possible case of measles exposure (2.26.15)
If measles breaks out in Berkeley unvaccinated children will be quarantined for 21 days (1.30.15)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...