California warns against intentional measles exposures

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California warns against intentional measles exposures
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 28: Miami Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Amanda Porro, M.D prepares to administer a measles vaccination to Sophie Barquin,4, as her mother Gabrielle Barquin holds her during a visit to the Miami Children's Hospital on January 28, 2015 in Miami, Florida. A recent outbreak of measles has some doctors encouraging vaccination as the best way to prevent measles and its spread. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 28: Miami Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Amanda Porro, M.D administers a measles vaccination to Sophie Barquin,4, as her mother Gabrielle Barquin and Miami Children's Hospital R.N. Diane Lichtman (R) hold her during a visit to the Miami Children's Hospital on January 28, 2015 in Miami, Florida. A recent outbreak of measles has some doctors encouraging vaccination as the best way to prevent measles and its spread. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
FOR USE AS DESIRED WITH MEASLES STORIES - A flyer educating parents about measles is displayed on a bulletin board at the Tamalpais Pediatrics clinic Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, in Greenbrae, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Pediatrician Charles Goodman vaccinates 1 year- old Cameron Fierro with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Some doctors are adamant about not accepting patients who don't believe in vaccinations, with some saying they don't want to be responsible for someone's death from an illness that was preventable. Others warn that refusing treatment to such people will just send them into the arms of quacks. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
People walk toward the Sleeping Beauty's Castle in the background at Disneyland, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. Seventy people have been infected in a measles outbreak that led California public health officials to urge those who haven't been vaccinated against the disease, including children too young to be immunized, should avoid Disney parks where the spread originated. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Mickey Mouse poses with visitors at Disneyland, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. Seventy people have been infected in a measles outbreak that led California public health officials to urge those who haven't been vaccinated against the disease, including children too young to be immunized, should avoid Disney parks where the spread originated. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
People watch a parade at Disneyland, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. A major measles outbreak traced to Disneyland has brought criticism down on the small but vocal movement among parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Mickey Mouse shaped balloons are for sale at Disneyland, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. A major measles outbreak traced to Disneyland has brought criticism down on the small but vocal movement among parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Interim Health Officer, Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, speaks about the state's measles outbreak during a news conference in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The department is strongly advising unvaccinated individuals to get the measles vaccine. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Visitors arrive at the main entrance to the Disney theme parks, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. Seventy people have been infected in a measles outbreak that led California public health officials to urge those who haven't been vaccinated against the disease, including children too young to be immunized, should avoid Disney parks where the spread originated. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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(Reuters) - California health officials on Monday warned parents against intentionally exposing their children to measles, which could worsen an outbreak in the state.

In response to media inquiries about so-called measles parties, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said it did not have information on the parties or their frequency.

But it added that the disease, of which 107 cases have been confirmed since an outbreak began late last year, was serious.

"CDPH strongly recommends against the intentional exposure of children to measles as it unnecessarily places the exposed children at potentially grave risk and could contribute to further spread," said department spokeswoman Anita Gore.

In 2011, federal authorities issued stern warnings following media reports that vaccine-wary parents were trading chicken pox-laced lollipops by mail, in misguided efforts to build children's immunity through exposure to the virus.

More than a third of California's cases have been linked to an outbreak health officials believe began in the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim in December. Gore said 30 percent of people infected in the current outbreak have been hospitalized.

More than 36 additional cases of the highly infectious disease have been reported in 19 other states and in Mexico, including three new cases diagnosed in Cook County, Illinois. Seven of the eight cases so far found in Cook County are associated with a daycare center in the city of Palatine.

Georgia health officials reported that an infant arriving in Atlanta from outside the United States was confirmed to have measles, the state's first reported case of the disease since 2012. The Georgia case is unrelated to the California outbreak.

The California Department of Public Health says 39 of the 107 confirmed cases have been linked to the Disneyland cluster.

The measles outbreak has renewed a debate over the so-called anti-vaccination movement, in which fears about potential side effects of vaccines, fueled by now-debunked research suggesting a link to autism, have prompted a small minority of parents to refuse inoculations for their children.

Some parents also opt not to have their children vaccinated for religious or other reasons.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 after decades of intensive childhood vaccine efforts. But last year, it had its highest number of measles cases in 20 years.

Most people recover from measles within a few weeks, although it can be fatal in some cases.

(Reporting by David Beasley in Georgia, Mary Wisniewski in Chicago, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez)

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