The Samohi Infant Toddler Center inside Santa Monica High School, a facility for 24 young children of students and staff members, closed Monday after it was learned that a baby under 12 months old being care for there had measles. It's not clear when, where or how the child got the disease.
Nor is there any timetable for when the center will reopen, but it's possible that children who have been immunized against the highly contagious virus could soon go back.
In addition to the baby with measles, 13 other infants who went to the day care center are being quarantined for 21 days as a safeguard.
"It's the best thing to do to protect the babies and the community," Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said of the closure. "It's a tough situation."
For all the talk about vaccination and measles, in one respect it's irrelevant in this case: Children shouldn't get the first dose until 12 through 15 months of age, with the second dose coming when they are between 4 and 6 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Then again, the fact that infants aren't vaccinated makes them even more vulnerable -- especially at a time when more and more measles cases are popping up daily in Southern California.
So far, this latest case hasn't affected the rest of Santa Monica High School or its 3,100-plus students, beyond the three teenage mothers with children who go to the day care center. An assistant baseball coach (who didn't teach at the school) contracted the disease weeks ago, but he's since returned with a clean bill of health.
According to the school district, 11.5% of all Santa Monica and Malibu students have not been immunized because their parents opted out. This is legal in California, but controversial -- with some, including medical professionals, saying that vaccinations are a safe, effective and necessary means to prevent the spread of diseases like measles.
California at epicenter
Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. For most people, it doesn't get much worse than that -- and yet one out of every 20 children with measles also contract pneumonia, and one or two out of every 1,000 children with the disease die from it, according to the CDC
While once widespread in the United States, cases dropped significantly thanks to vaccines. In 2000, health authorities declared that measles had been eliminated in the United States, which meant it was no longer native to the United States but continued to be brought in by international travelers.
But that doesn't mean no one has gotten it since.
Last year, the United States had its most number of measles cases -- at 644 -- since 2000, the CDC reported on its website. And in the first month of this year alone, 102 people reportedly had come down with the disease.
Those cases were reported in 14 states, but the vast majority were in California.
The Golden State alone had 92 new cases since December, most of those tied to an outbreak at Disneyland, according to the state's public health department
. Most of the 59 people originally affected were park employees and patrons.
Those numbers are one of the reasons California has been at the epicenter of this story, but not the only one.
Another has to do with vaccinations. California allows exemptions from vaccinations for medical reasons and "personal beliefs," and parents have been using them.
Over the last school year, 3.3% of California kindergartners -- about 18,200 -- were allowed to skip their shots, according to the CDC
. Schools are encouraged to have "an up-to-date list of pupils with exemptions, so they can be excluded quickly if an outbreak occurs," the California Department of Public Health says.