A measles outbreak in California has been linked to visits to Disneyland and Disneys California Adventure theme parks during the winter 2014 holiday, according to the California Department of Public Health. The latest case count in media reports indicates that the measles outbreak linked to Disneyland includes 45 reported cases in California and seven more illnesses confirmed in at least three other states (Utah, Washington and Colorado) and Mexico.
The first group of patients to develop measles had visited the parks from Dec. 17 to Dec. 20 and all cases from this exposure should have occurred by Jan 10, according to the CDPH website. This type of outbreak could happen anywhere where there are large numbers of international travelers, including airports, restaurants and shops, according to the website. Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease; nothing could have been done to prevent this outbreak given that measles is present in many parts of the world, and there are susceptible people in the U.S. The only way to prevent measles is through immunization, and this outbreak is a reminder that measles is just a plane ride away from the United States.
According to the CDC website, measles was eliminated in the U.S. by a highly effective vaccination program and a strong public health system for detecting and responding to measles cases and outbreaks. Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, about 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the U.S. Of those people, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 developed encephalitis (brain swelling). By 1981, the number of reported measles cases was 80% less compared with the previous year. Measles was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, meaning that it no longer spreads routinely like the common cold. The country continued to experience a few dozen cases a year as travelers from abroad were diagnosed here.
Around the country, state health officials are urging people who havent had measles or havent been vaccinated to get their shots. Measles can spread through coughing and sneezing and can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed, according to the CDC. One in 20 children with measles develop pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles, according to the CDC. For every 1,000 children with measles, one or two will die.