County: Measles Exposure Caused Risk at Local Restaurant

Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK The El Pollo Loco restaurant in La Cañada Flintridge was visited this month by a person who had measles, briefly exposing others to the risk of catching the virus, county officials said. They added that the risk no longer exists.
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
The El Pollo Loco restaurant in La Cañada Flintridge was visited this month by a person who had measles, briefly exposing others to the risk of catching the virus, county officials said. They added that the risk no longer exists.

There is no shortage of customers at the popular El Pollo Loco restaurant in La Cañada Flintridge. Unfortunately, one of its visitors earlier this month had measles, briefly exposing customers to the risk of catching the virus, county health officials have said.
In a statement, an El Pollo Loco spokesperson said restaurant officials were aware of a public health report on the incident and are working closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health — which is investigating measles cases and possible exposures — to ensure the safety of customers and employees. County officials said in a statement there is no known current risk related to measles that exists at the LCF restaurant and other locations at this time.
“This is not an issue coming from our restaurant, or any other restaurant location,” the El Pollo Loco spokesperson said in response to written questions. “This is a community issue as well as a nationwide ongoing issue.”
Officials have confirmed five measles cases in the county, all linked to international travel, with four of the cases connected to one another.
The measles virus remains active for about two hours outside the afflicted person’s body, said Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. The potential exposure at El Pollo Loco occurred between 2 and 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, according to the county public health department.
It is one of five locations in the county where officials said there had been a risk.
Measles symptoms include a fever of more than 101 degrees, a cough, a runny nose, red watery eyes and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The virus can be transmitted from one person to another for up to four days before the rash appears, county health officials said. About 90% of people who haven’t been immunized against measles become sick during a period from seven to 21 days after exposure, officials said.
The other exposures occurred at the Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal after an arrival at Gate 218 between 6:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. on April 1; UCLA’s Franz Hall on April 2, 4 and 9 and Boelter Hall on April 2 and 9 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Cal State Los Angeles’ main library on April 11 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and El Sauz Tacos at 4432 San Fernando Road in Glendale on April 13 between 1:30 and 4 p.m.
County officials said most of the five adults who were found to have measles had not been vaccinated. They gave no additional information about the afflicted people.
“The fact that we’re able nowadays to track down a location and let the public know — while store owners are probably not too happy about it — it’s excellent,” said Dorian. He said he had not seen a measles case this year at USC-VHH.
Dorian said the biggest problem with measles is there aren’t symptoms when a person contracts it; it stays dormant and symptoms appear days later.
“You don’t know you have an infection,” Dorian said. “You are contagious four days before you have a rash. That’s the difficult part in quarantine or managing this pre-vaccination. It’s great to isolate the locations. It puts some people on notice in the area.”
Dorian said a first vaccination is 93% effective in preventing the measles. A second vaccination is 97% effective, he added.
“The reason why this is happening is because of unvaccinated people and travelers,” Dorian said. “People are coming from outside the country. It can be a source, or vector, of infections.”
Dorian said historically there has been a great vaccination rate for children. In the last generation, he said, there has been a drop-off in youth being vaccinated, so the risk is slightly higher.
“That’s where the danger lies,” Dorian said. “That person can spread it for a couple of days.”
He said measles can be deadly to those who are younger than 2 months and those who are age 80 and older.
“It’s why they’re vaccinating all pregnant mothers,” Dorian said. The vaccination is to protect mothers from giving it to their children, he said.
For older people, he said, the extent of the danger depends on the health of one’s immune system.
“It’s really a case-by-case basis on knowing what other illnesses a person has that bring down the immune system to fight off infection,” Dorian said.
People who may have been exposed should be aware of the symptoms of measles and contact their health-care provider, according to a statement from the county.
Infected people can cause disease in those around them before they have symptoms and know they are contaminated, according to a news release.
Officials said people who visit the locations now are not at risk. The public health department did not have information about Pasadena and Long Beach.
In L.A. County for all of last year, there were five cases, the same number so far this year. The five cases reported this year are for L.A. County residents and are not related to four non resident cases in January, March and April.
In 2017, there were three cases. In 2016, there were 18 cases, nearly all in a closed social group outbreak. In 2015, there were 28 cases, with almost all cases from a 2014-15 Disneyland outbreak.
Dorian acknowledged it’s difficult to change some people’s minds about vaccinations.
“The people who have decided to not vaccinate are pretty passionate about it,” Dorian said. “It’s very difficult, unfortunately, to change a lot of minds until something happens close to home.”
Dorian said it’s “100% universally accepted” that vaccinations have saved more lives than any medicine created, but it’s still a controversial issue for some people.
“Unfortunately, people who end up suffering often don’t have the choice of being vaccinated,” he said. “Someone chose for them. I think, no question, we should expect there to be more [measles] cases. But we are lucky and fortunate to live in a time where we have vaccinations. You can see how quickly it’s spreading and hearing about it in a vaccinated world.”
On Tuesday, the Glendale Unified School District reported three students — two from Fremont Elementary and one from Clark Magnet High School — had been exposed to the measles virus, but all three were fully vaccinated and none had exhibited symptoms.
La Cañada Unified School District nurse Chris Henry said no measles cases had been reported this year in the district as of Wednesday. He added that he plans to soon release a letter to the school community about what measles is, along with information about the recent cases.
For more information about measles, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/measles or call 211.

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