Measles Outbreak Linked to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Visitors

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has confirmed nine people who visited Disney theme parks there last month contracted the measles virus; a highly contagious airborne virus that can cause severe rashes over the entire body. 

CDPH issued the Disney measles warning on January 7, announced that in addition to the nine confirmed cases, three more are suspected of having measles. All of the people confirmed and suspected to have contracted the measles virus visited Disneyland or the Disney California Adventure Park between December 15, and December 20, 2014.

The confirmed cases of the virus include seven residents of California, from five different regions of the state, and two people from Utah. The CDPH has also received reports of three additional visitors who are suspected to have the virus from showings of early symptoms. The infected individuals range from 8 months to 21 years-old. Six of the infected were not vaccinated against the disease and two others were too young to be vaccinated.

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Walt Disney’s chief medical officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel, announced during the discovery that the company had not received any reports of staff contracting measles and that Disney is working diligently with the CDPH to contain the spread of the virus. Disney officials also claimed that the virus could have been easily spread a carrier sneezing or coughing in the direction of another or on a commonly touched surface.

Measles are a highly contagious virus that lives in an infected person’s nose and throat mucus. The infection can be spread by simply being near someone due to its airborne ability to spread. Other common ways for the virus to spread are by individuals coughing or sneezing in the general direction of other or onto commonly touched areas.

Symptoms of the virus can take from 7 to 18 days to show before knowing you have the virus. Those symptoms can include high fever, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, hacking cough, and in some cases the lymph nodes in the neck may swell. Other symptoms can include diarrhea and sore red eyes. As the previously mentioned symptoms start to dissipate, the second phase of symptoms consists of a red rash that covers the entire body including bumps inside the infected individual’s mouth.

“If you have symptoms, and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider,” Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director said in a press release. “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.”

U.S. health officials officially declared the measles eliminated in the United States in 2000 because of the vaccination process which includes children to receive two doses when they are young. The measles virus is still a threat in the United States to those who have not been vaccinated and children too young to receive the antibody.

Dr. Jonathan L. Temte, chairman of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, commented that there is not much a theme park could do to prevent the transmission of measles since it is easily transmitted by simply being near someone.

Disney and California’s Department of Public Health are encouraging individuals who visited the park between December 15, and December 20, 2014 to be cautious of symptoms, especially those not properly vaccinated. Those suspicious of possibly contracting the virus should contact their healthcare provider.

Image Credit: Image Courtsey of Melissa Hillier via Flickr CC

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