The first case of measles in Santa Barbara County since 2016 was confirmed Friday by public health officials who only identified the patient as a Santa Barbara resident in his 20s. 

Jackie Ruiz, spokesperson for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said health officials are confident the exposure was limited as the man spent much of his infectious period — spanning from May 25 to June 2 — outside of Santa Barbara County. He has been in isolation since Wednesday.

"We highly encourage every person to know their measles vaccination status by checking in with their health care providers," Dr. Henning Ansorg, health officer for the Public Health Department, said in a statement. "Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads easily by air and through direct contact with someone who is infected. The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is safe and highly effective in protecting individuals from contracting measles."

Ruiz said the department is contacting and interviewing individuals who may have come in contact with the man to confirm their immunization and immunity status. The department is working with officials from San Francisco and Riverside, Los Angeles and Ventura counties — areas the man traveled to — to determine how the transmission occurred.

More than 700 cases of measles -- the largest number since 1994 -- have been reported across the United States, including 40 cases reported in southern and northern California. While no cases of measles have been reported in Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo counties, a handful of local elementary schools -- both public and private -- are vulnerable to the disease due to low vaccination rates among kindergartners, according to the "Shots for Schools” website, which is run by the California Department of Public Health.

The case comes at a time when hundreds of measles outbreaks from across the United States have been linked to international travelers who contracted the disease abroad, namely in countries — like Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines – where large measles outbreaks are occurring.

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As of May 30, 971 cases of measles — the largest number since 1994 — have been reported across the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In California, the state Department of Public Health reported 47 cases of measles in northern and southern California as of Wednesday, May 29.

One to two weeks after infection, when symptoms of a high fever, cough and runny nose first emerge, patients believe they have contracted a bad cold or slight flu. A rash -- red, flat spots on the face that travel down the neck, torso, arms and legs -- develops a few days after the onset of symptoms, and fevers can spike to more than 104 degrees. 

Additional information on measles, including how to check your immunization status and protect yourself from infection, can be found at the Public Health Department's website: https://countyofsb.org/phd/measles2019.

Reach reporter Mathew Burciaga at 805-739-2205 or mburciaga@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @mathewburciaga

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Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.

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