RENO, Nev. — Health departments in two states have opened investigations after a university student who contracted measles was determined to have been vaccinated.
It wasn’t immediately known whether the University of Nevada, Reno, student, whose name was not released, had both doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, generally given at age 12 to 15 months with a booster at 4 to 6 years old. The two shots are 97% effective in preventing measles; one dose is 93% effective, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though getting measles after you’ve been vaccinated is unusual, it is not unheard of. In a Kansas outbreak of 15 cases that began in March, most were unvaccinated infants at a day-care center.
But one was a fully vaccinated adult, The Kansas City (Mo.) Star reported.
“They could have just had an incomplete (immune) response, or it’s possible they just had a bad batch (of vaccine),” Greg Lakin, chief medical officer for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told the paper.
As of March 30, measles has sickened 34 people in 11 states, the CDC said.
The Reno case, diagnosed Monday, is linked to an outbreak in the San Francisco Bay area of six confirmed cases and one suspect case, said Jorge De La Cruz, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.
The California state health agency, the Washoe County Health District in Nevada and the Placer County Health Department in California all are working on the Reno case. The student went to Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on March 31 while contagious.
People who become sick with measles, a respiratory disease with symptoms that include a red rash and fever, are contagious for four days before the rash appears to four days after it appears, the CDC said.
The California cases involve patients who were not vaccinated, according to the Santa Clara County Department of Health. Five of the six cases were identified in Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose.
“All cases are linked to an unvaccinated traveler who was exposed in Europe and developed measles after returning to the San Francisco Bay area,” the Alameda Public Health Department said on its website. The sixth case is from that county, which includes Oakland.
Measles is so contagious that 9 in 10 people who get close to someone infected will get the disease if they are not immune. That’s because the virus in the misty droplets of an infected person’s breath, coughs or sneezes can live up two hours in the air and on surfaces in a room where an sick person has been, the CDC said.
About 300 students of about 21,000 students on the University of Nevada, Reno campus have waivers for the required vaccinations, university officials said. Two-thirds have the waivers for medical or religious reasons and another third receive a waiver because they take only online courses.
As of Friday morning, the university’s Student Health Center had given nine MMR vaccines and checked the immunity of seven others, university officials said. Students not vaccinated continue to be prohibited from returning to campus.
Washoe County health officials have received hundreds of phone calls so far from people concerned that they been nearby as the student went shopping at Walmart, to class on campus and skiing at Squaw Valley. The student also visited a CVS clinic and a hospital urgent care March 31 and then the university health center without knowing the potential for passing on the disease.
Someone who suspects they’ve been exposed to the measles virus should call before going to a doctor or hospital so staff can make arrangements to reduce the risk to others.