Dozens quarantined as health agencies try to stem measles outbreak

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At least 57 people have been quarantined in Orange and San Diego Counties as part of public health officials' efforts to quell the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland last month.

For each person who contracts the measles, public health nurses have to track down anyone who might have had direct contact with that person or even have been in the same room, since the virus can linger in the air for two hours after a sick person has left. Nurses have to determine whether an exposed person has been vaccinated or otherwise has immunity to the disease, and if not, ask that person to self-quarantine.

An Orange County Health Care Agency spokeswoman says that as of Tuesday, county nurses were working to reach "hundreds, if not thousands of people" who had been exposed. Between 30 and 40 have been quarantined at home, she said. In San Diego County, nurses had contacted 325 people with known exposure through this past weekend, and 27 had been quarantined, according to Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.

A spokesman at the L.A. County Department of Public Health would not answer questions about L.A.’s measles investigation. But a memo dated Jan. 21 said that as of that date, when there were eight confirmed cases in the county, nurses were working to contact 800 people with possible exposure. Since then, the number of confirmed L.A. cases has risen to 12, making it likely the contact search has widened.

But even if a contact search is exhaustive, it can only accomplish so much, said San Diego's Wooten. 

"There are certainly hundreds of others that we don’t have information for because we don’t have any way of finding out who those individuals are," she said.

The last known exposure to measles in San Diego County was on Jan. 16, Wooten said. But measles has a three-week incubation period, so San Diego officials won’t be able to close the books on their current outbreak unless no one else gets sick between now and Feb 6.

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