The Yuba River Charter School in Nevada County, California — a county with one of the lowest immunization rates in the state — closed Tuesday after a child there was diagnosed with measles. California’s department of public health is reportedly investigating the child, who “showed symptoms of measles after returning home from a trip overseas.”
He’s fine, but he was also infectious at school on March 17, which means his unvaccinated classmates were exposed to the highly contagious disease. If no new cases are reported, the school will be closed to all students until Wednesday and closed to students without a measles vaccine until April 8.
Coincidentally, YRCS’s immunization rate is even lower than the county average — according to the Huffington Post, only 43 percent of kindergarteners there are up to date on their immunizations. That number is even lower than the already-low county average of 77.1 percent of kindergarteners who meet the requirement.
Dr. Karen Smith, the state’s public-health officer, is not pleased. “It’s concerning to receive a report of a child with measles because it’s a disease that can easily be prevented,” she wrote in a statement. She went on to remind parents, including those who choose not to vaccinate their children, that “immunization is the best way to protect against measles. Two doses of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine are approximately 97 percent effective at preventing disease in exposed persons.”
After the Disneyland measles outbreak last spring, California passed strict legislation that requires parents to vaccinate their kids enrolled in public and private schools. According to the law, parents can no longer be exempt from vaccinating their children for religious or personal reasons, although they can still opt out for medical reasons. Parents who refuse to comply with the law must homeschool their children.
In a letter to YRCS families, school director Ron Charles encouraged “conscious speech” when addressing the inevitable media storm and told parents the state health department recommends they vaccinate their kids. The school is even holding a free drive-up clinic on Thursday afternoon for all their MMR vaccine needs! Unfortunately for Charles and YRCS, if a parent has joined the ranks of the anti-vaxxers, it’s unlikely even a measles outbreak will change their minds.