Seven Californians who visited Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in December have measles and three others may have been infected, state health officials said Wednesday.
The people visited the theme parks between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, the California Department of Public Health said. The ill are from Alameda, Orange, Pasadena, Riverside and San Diego counties and range in age from 8 months to 21 years.
Six of the Californians were not vaccinated against the disease, including two who were too young to be vaccinated.
Also, two people in Utah who visited the parks have measles, officials said.
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It’s likely a person infectious with measles was at one of the theme parks at those times, the officials said. Measles is spread through the air and people can be infectious with measles for nine days. Symptoms begin with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes and within a few days a red rash appears. The rash is usually on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.
“If you have symptoms, and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, the state’s health officer. “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.”
Doctors treating patients with fever and a rash should consider measles, and ask patients about travel to international destinations and domestic venues that are popular with international travelers, the health department said.
Although measles has largely vanished in the United States since 2000, large outbreaks have occurred in Western Europe, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines in recent years, the health department said. Disney is an international attraction and visitors come from throughout the world, including areas where measles is widespread.
Disney officials said they had not received any reports of staff contracting measles, and added they are cooperating with the state health department.
Health experts said there isn’t much a theme park could do to prevent transmission since measles is airborne, noting the best prevention is vaccination.
Dr. Jonathan L. Temte, chairman of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said those who caught measles probably were a few feet from someone with the illness who coughed or sneezed — and that many others likely were exposed.
“Of the people at Disneyland at the time that this occurred, probably 90% to 95% were vaccinated,” Temte said. “All of a sudden you realize that is a much higher attack rate.”
Dr. Alan Hinman, director of programs at the Center for Vaccine Equity, said the measles vaccine is highly effective. After the recommended two doses (for children, the first usually comes after the first birthday, the second before starting kindergarten), he said maybe one in 100 people could still get the illness, or fewer.
There has been an increase in confirmed cases in the U.S. In California, Orange County led the way last year with 22 of the 62 confirmed cases statewide. Orange County health officials expressed concern that the upswing in cases appeared to coincide with a growing anti-vaccine movement.