On any given day, more than 4,000 people pass through the library at California State University-Los Angeles. On April 11, one of them had measles. The building has only one entrance, which means that anyone who entered or exited the library within two hours of that person’s visit potentially was exposed to one of the most contagious diseases on Earth. It’s the stuff of public health nightmares: Everyone at the library between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. that day had to be identified, warned and possibly quarantined. Measles is so contagious that up to 90% of people close to an infected person who are not protected by a vaccine or previous case of the disease will become infected.
The New Mexico Department of Health confirmed the state’s first case of measles in nearly five years. Last week, DOH said a one-year-old child from Sierra County is the first New Mexican infected with the disease since December of 2014. “We have worked with the clinic that treated the child and the patient’s family to identify people who may have been exposed so we can prevent more cases of the disease,” DOH Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel announced Friday. “We encourage everyone to check whether you and your family have been vaccinated to protect against measles. Immunization is the best tool we have to protect people from measles.”
Measles is highly infectious and was considered eliminated in the United States in 2000, thanks to the development of a vaccine in the 1960s and a concerted effort by the Centers for Disease Control beginning in the late 1970s.
A bill by a freshman Democrat would close what she describes a loophole in vaccinations. With a rise in the number of unvaccinated, New Mexico and other states have seen outbreaks of Measles, a disease that can be deadly that had largely been stopped because of vaccinations. Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, is the bill’s sponsor and told New Mexico Political Report that the national attention helped bring momentum to the idea. “There’s national attention on it,” she said. “As a result of that national attention, everyone talking about it, some pediatricians approached me that the time is right to try and deal with this, the current exemptions.”