During a press conference today, Humboldt County Health Officer Doctor Candy Stockton said there are no new local cases of measles. 

As of today, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) finished contact tracing all 115 people who were potentially exposed to the disease on May 10, when someone with measles visited the Days Inn and St. Joseph Hospital emergency room in Eureka. It is believed that the infected person has left Humboldt County. 

Those exposed aren’t in the clear yet, as symptoms could appear until May 31, Stockton clarified. DHHS is monitoring those individuals and is working with local healthcare facilities to spot measles symptoms should an infected person show up. 

That said, most who were exposed are probably immune, which DHHS determined through interviews, vaccine records and some immunity testing. The vast majority are over the age of 30, and fewer than five are minors, Stockton said. Most of the 115 exposures happened at the hospital, and nearly half of the total exposures are health care workers. 

“We’re very fortunate that most of those individuals who were exposed were over the age of 30, which is before a lot of the anti MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] vaccine misinformation that’s circulating really started to come into play,” Stockton said. 

Vaccination is an effective defense against measles, preventing cases in 97 percent of people exposed. DHHS does not have immediate data on what percentage of Humboldt’s population is vaccinated for measles.

“It’s understandable that in this day and age, where many of us are not used to seeing these diseases, that the perceived risk of a vaccine can seem kind of scary. But the only reason we’re in this situation, where we can think the vaccine seems kind of scary, is because vaccines have been so effective at preventing these diseases. And so we no longer have pediatric hospital units full of children that are permanently damaged and/or dying from these vaccine-preventable illnesses,” Stockton said. 

“I would love for us to learn from history and not have to learn from our own painful experience of watching our community members suffer from these diseases.”

Measles vaccines are typically administered to children in two doses, but adults who aren’t vaccinated or don’t know their status can get the jab as well.

Measles cases typically start with cold-like symptoms, which are followed by a red polka-dotted rash that usually starts at the top of the body and spreads downwards. 

“At that point, you should call and check in with your healthcare provider to go through some questions over the phone to see if you might be at high risk and should be tested for measles or some other illness,” Stockton said. 

“We ask that if you are developing symptoms that you think might be measles, please do not go into a healthcare facility unless you are so sick you need immediate medical support, because we don’t want to risk that spreading to other individuals – particularly in a healthcare setting – other individuals who might be immunocompromised and may not be able to fight off the virus if they’re exposed to it.”

If you think you might have measles but don’t have a healthcare provider, you can call DHHS at 707-268-2181 to get an over-the-phone screening. 

“While I can never promise or guarantee that we won’t see cases, the odds are in our favor that this will not become an actual outbreak,” Stockton said. A measles outbreak is defined as three or more related cases.