TIME Infectious Disease

California Lawmakers Move to End Exemptions for Measles Vaccine

Carmen Lopez, Charles Goodman
Damian Dovarganes—AP Pediatrician Dr. Charles Goodman talks with Carmen Lopez, who is holding her 18-month-old son Daniel after being vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, at his practice in Northridge, Calif., on Jan. 29, 2015

More than a hundred people have been infected in a recent measles outbreak.

Lawmakers in California have moved to end parents’ right to exempt their children from school vaccinations based on personal beliefs.

The state senators said Thursday that they planned to introduce the legislation to make California the 33rd state to bar the exemption, Reuters reports.

More than 100 people have been infected with the measles in a recent outbreak partially linked to Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif. Most of those infected were unvaccinated.

“The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community,” state Senator Ben Allen said in a written statement. He is co-sponsoring the legislation along with fellow Democrat Richard Pan. “We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy.”

[Reuters]

TIME 2016 Election

Can Antonio Villaraigosa Become California’s Next Senator?

Antonio Villaraigosa
Richard Shotwell—Invision/AP Antonio Villaraigosa arrives at the 2013 MOCA Gala on April 20, 2013 in Los Angeles.

The former Los Angeles mayor is getting closer to taking on Kamala Harris in the 2016 race

Almost as soon as California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016, Democratic power brokers from Sacramento to Washington lined up to endorse her. Meanwhile, potential challengers including billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and the state’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, said they wouldn’t run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. But one faction in the Democratic establishment wasn’t quite ready for a Harris coronation. This group, made up of Latino political leaders, was electrified by another potential choice: former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa said he was “seriously a considering” a run on Jan. 10, and political consultants who have spoken with him since say it’s likely he will jump in. Should Villaraigosa run and win, he would become the first Latino senator from California and could be the only Mexican-American in the chamber, making him a key player on issues such as immigration. And given the powerful roles California senators tend to play inside the Beltway and the attention this race is expected to attract, the winner is likely to arrive in Washington with a high national profile.

But Villaraigosa faces tough questions as he decides whether to take on Harris, a popular attorney general with a broad fundraising network, including whether he has enough appeal outside his home territory of Southern California, and if voters will understand his decision to leave public service in 2012 to enter the private sector.

Villaraigosa chaired the 2012 Democratic National Convention and has the connections to raise the huge sums needed to run for statewide office in California, which has some of the most expensive media markets in the country. “It could easily be a $15 million primary,” says Rose Kapolczynski, a Los Angeles-based Democratic consultant and longtime campaign manager for Boxer. Here, Villaraigosa and Harris would be courting many of the same wealthy contributors. “There are only so many progressive donors in California and Kamala Harris and Antonio Villaraigosa share many of the same donors from their past races,” says Kapolczynski. (And thanks to California’s overwhelming Democratic slant and unusual election rules, which put the top two vote getters in the primary on the general election ballot, regardless of party, Villaraigosa and Harris could end up running against each other again in the fall.)

In addition to two high-profile terms as mayor of Los Angeles, Villaraigosa is a former speaker of the state Assembly and is relatively well-known throughout the state, particularly among Latino voters. “He’s going to have to be taken seriously,” says Tom Hogen-Esch, a political science professor at California State University, Northridge. “He’s got a long Rolodex and a long history in state politics and he can still command the stage.”

Harris, while popular among Democratic leaders, may have less name recognition outside the Bay Area. “I don’t think very many people know much about her,” Hogen-Esch says. “She’ll have to raise a lot of money to introduce herself to voters.”

As he contemplates a run, Villaraigosa has been calling and meeting with Democratic strategists, leaders and donors throughout the state. “He routinely reaches out to a wide circle to get advice about policy and politics. I’m not at all surprised he is calling dozens or hundreds of people,” says Kapolczynski “Some of these calls might be asking for advice, some might be taking the donors’ temperature.”

But despite his traction with voters and donors, Villaraigosa is not without flaws and vulnerabilities—some of them personal. During his first term as mayor, Villaraigosa had an affair with a Los Angeles television reporter and separated from his wife. They later divorced. The incident came years after Villaraigosa admitted to an earlier affair. Villaraigosa has also spent his recent time out of office consulting for for-profit companies, including Herbalife, which a Latino civil rights group has accused of misleading those who sell the company’s products. But the biggest downside of Villaraigosa’s time out of office may be simply that he’s been out of the news and out of the minds of voters. Harris, meanwhile, was just re-elected to statewide office in a landslide.

And beyond Harris and Villaraigosa, other viable candidates are also reportedly considering entering the race, including U.S. Reps. Xavier Becerra, Adam Schiff and Loretta Sanchez. For Villaraigosa, the decision is weighty. Losing the race would likely prevent him from running for governor in 2018 or, should Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 81, choose to retire, seeking the state’s other Senate seat that same year.

“When you lose,” says Hogen-Esch, “you get some chinks in your armor.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Feds Say Measles Outbreak Tops 100 Cases

Carmen Lopez, Charles Goodman
Damian Dovarganes—AP Pediatrician Dr. Charles Goodman talks with Carmen Lopez, who is holding her 18-month-old son Daniel after being vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, at his practice in Northridge, Calif., on Jan. 29, 2015

The majority of people with the disease were not vaccinated

The number of measles cases in the U.S. has reached 102, according to new numbers released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Between Jan. 1 to Jan. 30, 102 cases of the measles were reported to the CDC from 14 different states. The majority of the cases are from an ongoing outbreak linked to Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif. The CDC says the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.

“It’s only January and we have already had a very large number of measles cases — as many cases as we have all year in typical years,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the assistant surgeon general, U.S. Public Health Service said in a press conference last Thursday. “This worries me, and I want to do everything possible to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the United States and becoming endemic again.”

Medical officials have not yet determined how this year’s outbreak began, but the CDC says measles were likely brought over by travelers from overseas. The people infected in the current outbreak have exposed others at the amusement park as well as schools, day cares, emergency departments, airplanes and outpatient clinics, the CDC says. In 2014, the U.S. had the highest number of measles cases reported in over 20 years, at over 600 cases.

The U.S. declared measles eliminated in the country in 2000, meaning it was no longer a disease native to the U.S. Strong immunization rates will keep it that way, which makes parents who do not vaccinate their children a concern to health officials.

A recent poll showed 92% of physicians believe the current outbreak is directly attributable to parents not vaccinating their kids, and 72% believe unvaccinated kids should not be allowed in public schools.

The measles vaccine, called MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), is nearly 100% effective at preventing measles, which is a highly contagious disease. In kids measles can cause serious complications like pneumonia, long-term brain damage and deafness.

The CDC recommends all kids get two doses of MMR vaccine; the first at age 12 through 15 months and the second at 4 through 6 years. Adults who are unsure whether they got the vaccine should get one, says the agency, since there is no harm in getting it a second time. On Friday, the White House urged parents to listen to health professionals on vaccinations.

Read next: Christie Says Parents Should Have a Choice on Measles Vaccine

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY Shopping

Girl Scouts Raise Cookie Prices

Ashley Rubin, 9, holds a sign during Girl Scout Troop 582's cookie training session at Beach Vineyard Church in Panama City Beach, Florida, 2015.
Heather Leiphart—AP Ashley Rubin, 9, holds a sign during Girl Scout Troop 582's cookie training session at Beach Vineyard Church in Panama City Beach, Florida, 2015.

Stocking up on your favorite Thin Mints and Samoas could put a bigger dent in your wallet this year.

Five bucks for a box of Thin Mints? That’s how much Girl Scout cookie fans will pay in some regions of California, up from $4 a year ago. In parts of the South, prices will rise to $4 a box from $3.50.

As cookie-selling season gets under way, Girl Scout councils in San Diego, Orange County, and Greater Los Angeles are hiking prices for the first time in a decade. The increase will bring more money into local scout troops—about 27% more per box by their estimates, the WSJ reports. Each council sets prices in its own region (in the New York area, prices are staying at $4.)

In March, the Girl Scouts announced that they were taking cookie sales online. It also introduced three new flavors for 2015. This latest change is attributed to increased prices charged by the baker (up 19%) and higher operating costs (up 28%), according to a statement from the Greater Los Angeles Council.

Price hike or no, the Girl Scouts say you’re still getting a bargain. At the local rate of inflation, a box of cookies should actually cost $5.84.

TIME Environment

California Let Oil Companies Contaminate Water, Report Says

'If there are wells having a direct impact on drinking water, we need to shut them down now'

California state regulators allowed oil companies to dispose of wastewater in clean groundwater supplies for years, according to a new report.

The San Francisco Chronicle, citing a review of state data, reports that oil companies built more than 170 waste-disposal wells feeding into bodies of groundwater that could otherwise have been used for drinking or irrigation during one of the area’s worst droughts in centuries. The wells are primarily located in the state’s agricultural Central Valley region, which was particularly devastated by the drought.

“If there are wells having a direct impact on drinking water, we need to shut them down now,” said Jared Bluemnfeld, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. “Safe drinking water is only going to become more in demand.”

Read more at the Chronicle

TIME Infectious Disease

The Disneyland Measles Outbreak Likely Came From Overseas

Mickey Mouse performing during a parade at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., Jan. 22, 2015.
Jae C. Hong—AP Mickey Mouse performing during a parade at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., Jan. 22, 2015.

Health professionals say the outbreak highlights the need for childhood vaccinations

An outbreak of measles that began in California’s Disneyland is likely to have come from overseas, health officials said Thursday.

The highly infectious disease was probably carried into the U.S. by a foreign tourist or an American returning home, NBC News reports.

Ninety-four people have now been infected with measles across eight states; 67 of those cases are linked to the Disneyland park.

“We don’t know exactly how this outbreak started but we do think it was likely a person infected with measles overseas,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schuchat says the reason for the outbreak is because people are failing to get vaccinated.

[NBC]

TIME Infectious Disease

The City of Phoenix Is Monitoring a Thousand People for Measles

The unvaccinated among them are being asked to stay home for 21 days

Health staff in Arizona are monitoring 1,000 people, including around 200 children, who could have been exposed to measles at the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center after a woman who visited the medical facility came down with the disease.

The woman is thought to have contracted the illness from members of a family from Pinal County who had visited the Disneyland theme park in California, the Associated Press reports. After California, Arizona has the highest measles incidence related to the recent outbreak at Disney parks, and the fear is that the outbreak could now increase dramatically.

As a public-health precaution, officials are asking all unvaccinated individuals in the group being monitored to remain homebound for a 21-day observation period, or at the very least don face masks if they venture outside.

“To stay in your house for 21 days is hard,” said State Health Services director Will Humble. “But we need people to follow those recommendations, because all it takes is a quick trip to the Costco before you’re ill and, bam, you’ve just exposed a few hundred people. We’re at a real critical juncture with the outbreak.”

Authorities are currently trying to track everyone who visited the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center from Jan. 20 to 21. The number of unvaccinated people who may have entered the center during that time remains unknown.

[AP]

 

TIME Infectious Disease

A California High School Suspended 66 Kids Over Measles Fears

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Getty Images

School districts are grappling over whether to make vaccination a condition of enrollment

A two-week suspension for 66 high school students who have not been fully immunized for measles has been handed down by a California high school.

The move comes after one student was believed to have exposed 20 others to the highly contagious disease during a school field trip.

That student is being allowed to return to the Palm Desert High School according to the Los Angeles Times, and the suspended students can return to school earlier if they provide proof of immunization or are medically cleared by the Riverside County Public Health Department.

“We are simply responding, being very careful and making sure we’re taking the best care of students and staff,” Desert Sands Unified School District spokeswoman Mary Perry told Reuters.

School districts are grappling with the decision of whether or not to require students to prove they have been vaccinated before enrollment.

The homegrown measles virus, which causes rash and fever, was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. Its reappearance and subsequent surge has created concerns over parents who do not have their children vaccinated because of fears of negative side effects.

California and the surrounding states, plus Mexico, have reported over 90 cases of measles from an outbreak that is believed to have originated in Disneyland in mid-December.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME Health Care

California Says E-Cigarettes a Health Risk

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Department of health advises Californians to stay away from e-cigs

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has come out against electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), releasing a new report on Wednesday outlining their risks.

“E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals, and the nicotine in them is as addictive as the nicotine in cigarettes,” CDPH director and state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman said in a statement about his report. “There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes. That is why, as the state’s health officer, I am advising Californians to avoid the use of e-cigarettes and keep them away from children of all ages.”

The news comes as the California state legislature considers a ban on the devices in public places, as well as new measures against selling them to minors.

According to CDPH, e-cig use among Californians aged 18 to 29 has gone up from 2.3% in 2012 to 7.6% in 2013 and young adults in California are three times more like to use e-cigs than people over age 30. California poison centers are also seeing an increase in calls related to exposures to the liquids inside e-cigarettes. Calls increased from 19 in 2012 to 243 in 2014.

MORE: What to Know About the Science of E-Cigarettes

Nationwide, similar increases are being observed, with data from the 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey showing that the percentage of middle school and high school students who have tried e-cigarettes doubled from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012.

The new report touches on the harm to brain development from exposure to nicotine during adolescence; dangerous chemicals found in some e-cigarette aerosol; and the fact that e-cigs are not FDA-approved devices for smoking cessation.

The report can be added to a growing amount of data on the risks and potential benefits of e-cigarettes. Earlier this month, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that e-cigarettes may be producing harmful chemicals known to cause cancer in humans.

You can read the full report, here.

TIME Crime

Boy Scouts’ ‘Perversion Files’ to Be Unveiled in Molestation Trial

Boy Scouts, Parents Deliver Petition To Boy Scout HQ To End Ban On LGBT Scouts
Tom Pennington—Getty Images A detail view of a Boy Scout uniform.

The trial will focus on documents between 1971 and 2007

Nearly 100,000 pages from the Boy Scouts of America’s so-called “perversion” files – documenting the alleged sexual abuse of scouts by adult volunteers – will play a key role in a civil trial that began on Monday in Santa Barbara, California.

“The Boy Scouts of America has a long and sordid history of child sexual abuse committed against young Scouts, committed by Scout leaders, and that timeline goes back, the files show, until at least the 1920s,” attorney Tim Hale told the jury in his opening statements, according to the Associated Press.

Hale represents a now 20-year-old former Scout who was sexually molested seven years ago by volunteer Al Stein, 37, while the two worked in a Christmas tree lot in Goleta, California, Stein later served time in prison for the assault that his victim contends resulted in depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress so severe that he cannot leave his home.

Hale maintains that the organization did little to properly educate and train adult volunteers and parents about sex abuse. He told the jury that once deliberations begin they will receive a CD containing thousands of abuse cases gathered by the organization.

“You are going to be the first people in the United States with the opportunity to review these files,” said Hale, who got the green light to use the files as evidence by a judge earlier this month.

Nicholas Heldt, an attorney for the Scouts, argued that the “perversion” files, aka ineligible volunteer (IV) files, were used to develop a list of adults who shouldn’t be allowed to participate in Scouts. He added that while the organization may have made mistakes in the past, it currently maintains an intensive program to protect children from pedophiles and the files will reveal what strides have been made in recent years to protect children.

“I think this is a case in which the one instance of sexual abuse against [the plaintiff] could not have been prevented and it wasn’t prevented,” Heldt said in his opening statements, per the AP. “But the training program may have helped prevent the second or the third instance of sexual abuse.”

In this particular case, Heldt maintained that the training program helped the victim understand what was happening during his sexual assault and resist the attack. He quickly notified his mother and she alerted Scout leaders about the incident, who informed police.

“The behavior described in this suit is absolutely unacceptable and runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands,” Deron Smith, communications director for the organization, tells PEOPLE. “The ineligible volunteer files (IV) exist solely to keep out individuals whose actions are inconsistent with the standards of Scouting and Scouts are safer because those files exist. Experts have found that the BSA’s system of IV files functions well to help protect Scouts by denying entry to dangerous individuals, and Scouting believes that they play an important role in our comprehensive youth protection system.”

In 2012, an Oregon Supreme Court judge first ordered the release of the “perversion” files from 1965 to 1985 after a former scout was awarded a $20 million settlement in a molestation case. The records revealed that many of the abuse allegations brought to the attention of the national organization were never reported to police.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times created a detailed database documenting the nearly 5,000 men and several women expelled from the organization between 1947 and 2005 after being suspected of sexual abuse.

In the ongoing trial, Hale plans on focusing on documents between 1971 and 2007.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

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