California counties have spent more than $400K tackling measles cases this year

California counties have spent more than $400,000 this year so far curbing measles cases across the state, with costs likely to increase, according to preliminary data collected by the office of state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento.

The cost estimates comes as public health officials nationwide race to contain the growing number of measles outbreaks: 764 measles cases have been reported in the U.S. this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the greatest number since the deadly virus was declared “eliminated” in 2000.

With measles outbreaks throughout the state – including Butte County, Los Angeles County and Sacramento County – the California Department of Public Health has asked all counties (both with and without measles cases) to track costs and activities related to the virus and prevention.

In California alone, 44 cases have been reported. Preliminary data released by Pan’s office includes all counties with reported measles cases, but only three counties without measles cases.

Butte County, which has reported 11 measles cases this year, has spent more than $81,000. Santa Clara County, which had four measles cases reported, has spent the most, according to preliminary data: more than $130,000.

Sacramento County has spent nearly $22,000 containing and managing three measles cases reported last month, according to county spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno.

The estimate includes personnel costs and staff time related to emergency preparedness, laboratory testing, public information and more, Bongiorno said.

The cost of reining in the measles outbreak in California is likely to increase. The early cost estimates for Los Angeles County is about $81,200, but covers only three of the 10 reported measles cases there. Last month, the county told hundreds of college students and staff to stay home – one of the largest quarantine orders in California history.

“We are here to remind the people of California of the cost of preventable disease,” Pan said during a press conference at UCLA Medical Center on Friday.

Earlier this year, Pan authored Senate Bill 276, a proposal that would put greater restrictions on medical exemptions for vaccines, which have increased since the personal belief exemption was removed in 2015.

“The infection of 44 people with measles in California are not only a threat to the safety and health of our children, these infections are disruptive and costly to taxpayers,” Pan said in a statement.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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