Measles on the rise in California

The number of measles cases in California is rising, according to state health officials who say unimmunized travelers infected elsewhere are behind the numbers.

Dr. Gilberto Chavez, deputy director of the California Department of Public Health, said many of those recently infected with measles include unimmunized Californians traveling abroad, foreign visitors and those who have come into contact with infected travelers, according to the L.A. Times.

Measles has been largely subdued in the Western Hemisphere, but remains a significant problem in Africa, Europe and Asia.

In Europe, a recent outbreak spread through 30 countries, leaving 6,500 people infected this year. Unimmunized children in Belgium have been hit particularly hard because of parents who do not believe in vaccinations and infants who have yet to be vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization.

Chavez said that although infants are usually given inoculations after one year of age, infants traveling abroad are allowed the vaccine after six months, the L.A. Times reports.

There have been 13 measles cases reported in California so far this year, with seven occurring in April alone. Four patients have been hospitalized, according to the L.A. Times. Since measles is capable of spreading rapidly, especially in cases where the population remains unvaccinated, health officials are concerned.

In 2008, a seven-year-old boy from San Diego contracted measles while in Switzerland on a family trip and triggered an outbreak upon his return. He infected his two siblings and nine other children from a doctor’s office and his public charter school. His family had chosen not to vaccinate their children. The outbreak forced at least 70 children to be quarantined at home.