Despite proudly being known as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” California’s Disneyland theme park was recently the setting for a large measles outbreak in the U.S. According to the LA Times, the outbreak reportedly began when one infected person visited the Anaheim park last month, sometime between December 15th and 20th.
Within just a few weeks, health officials across the country began seeing cases of the measles; reports from January 13th stated that there had been 26 confirmed cases in the U.S., all connected to the Disneyland outbreak.
It appears that the majority of infected people reside in California, making it easier for health officials to diagnose and contain the disease. But disease outbreaks of this nature are notoriously difficult to contain — which is exactly why they turn into outbreaks and affect dozens of people seemingly without warning.
In this particular case, officials note that at least one unvaccinated victim has traveled via plane from California to Washington state, increasing the odds exponentially of the outbreak spreading to other regions.
The majority of the current infected patients, health officials note, had not received the measles vaccine either by their own choice or because of a parent’s decision not to vaccinate.
Health officials have warned local residents that the best way to fight infection is to be vaccinated; although it’s recommended that the first set of the measles vaccine should be given to children when they’re between the ages of one year and 15 months old, it’s not too late for a person to be vaccinated if he/she hasn’t already contracted the disease.
Measles, mumps and rubella are considered childhood diseases as during this time their immune system is immature and does not have the ability to fight off viruses effectively. Prior to the widespread introduction of the MMR vaccine in the 1950’s, many children became acutely ill from these diseases and death among young children was a national concern.
Studies have shown over the past 60 years that there is a sharp decline in childhood mortality largely due to a National drive to vaccinate all children. Children respond to the vaccine and build antibodies to fight off any exposure.
“As with any serious public health concern, officials are also stating that it’s better to be safe than sorry if you think you may have come in contact with the measles or have already developed symptoms,” says Michael Kipp, PA-C at Doctors Express Phoenix. “The measles are highly contagious, and it takes about four days after contracting the infection for symptoms to show up (the most common symptoms being fever, rashes, and watery eyes). Anyone with these symptoms is highly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention, regardless of location, age, or vaccination history.”