As a measles outbreak in the West expands to 70 people and five states, school officials at a Huntington Beach, Calif., high school sent home 24 students whose school records show had opted out of childhood immunizations. The students were asked not to return until Jan. 29.
The medical director for epidemiology at the Orange County Health Care Agency told parents of the unvaccinated children in a letter that an infected student was at Huntington Beach High School from Jan. 6 to 8, and that the request for them to stay home was to prevent further spread of the disease.
Students at the school whose shots are up-to-date aren't at extreme risk for coming down with the highly contagious, airborne illness. Their immunity to measles through two routine MMR shots should protect them.
The measles outbreak has spread beyond mid-December visitors to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure theme parks. Earlier this month, state health officials linked nine reported cases of measles to visits there between Dec. 15 and 20.
The latest numbers have the outbreak at 59 confirmed cases in California, seven of whom had not been to Disneyland or California Adventure. State health officials recommend keeping children under 1 year away from Disneyland until the outbreak is contained.
The measles cases have affected children as young as 7 months and adults as old as 70. Five of the cases are in people who had received the recommended two doses of MMR immunization.
Adults who received their vaccinations decades ago may be more susceptible as well, and heath officials recommend they get a booster. Those who received shots before 1989 may have only had one dose of the vaccine, as was standard routine before then.