County health lab staying busy testing for measles

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency says just about everyday, scientists are testing for measles in the lab.

Doctors say the county has been lucky because so far, there have been no confirmed cases of the measles.

Testing for measles has kept Senior Public Health Microbiologist Crystal Renteria and her team busy.

“In the past, we would get a measles case maybe once a month, maybe once every two months and recently it’s been about 15 to 18 a week,” Renteria said.

Renteria explains patient specimens go through two machines and in a matter of about four hours they get the results.

“A case that they consider higher risk we are a little more anxious for the result, but so far we are lucky we haven’t had any at all that were positive,” Renteria said.

So far this year, there have been more than 800 reported cases of the measles in the United States. More than 40 of those have been reported in California.

“We want to make sure that if someone with measles shows up in San Diego County that we know about them early and we make sure we limit the contact that people have with that person,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Deputy Public Health Officer.

County health officials are urging people to get vaccinated, especially those that are traveling to countries dealing with a major measles outbreak like the Philippines.

Doctors say the virus is airborne and highly contagious. Symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and red rash.

“In the past we saw people every year who had horrible neurologic complications — infections around their brain from measles and and even death. So we are concerned as we see an increasing number of cases,” Dr. Sidelinger said.

To help prevent the disease from spreading further, scientists and doctors said they are working together and putting in the extra hours.

“My kind of career, it’s very technical and involves a lot of detail work and it’s a kind of a behind the scenes way of promoting health and getting doctors the answers they need,” Renteria said.

For more about measles and prevention measures click here. 

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