The virus is highly contagious—90% of people without immunity sharing living space with an infected person will catch it.
The measles outbreak, which was said to have started at Disneyland and one other California theme park is expanding.
So far there has been over 60 confirmed cases and the number is still rising. The California Department of Public Health has linked 42 of these cases to people who visited Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure Park.
Initially, cases were linked to people who visited the parks in mid-December, but health officials now say that other people with measles were at the parks in January while infectious and also have spread the disease.
The outbreak has spread beyond California with seven cases in Utah, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Mexico has also confirmed a case.
Vaccination status is known for 34 of the California patients. State officials say that 28 were not vaccinated at all, one was partially vaccinated and five were fully vaccinated. Six of the unvaccinated were babies, too young to be vaccinated.
“You get the idea that we’re now way below the level of immunization that we should have,” said Dr. James Cherry, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in Los Angeles. “In fact, some people who did receive measles shots four decades ago may have lost their immunity as time passed. “So we have about 1 in 10 people who are susceptible to measles.”
That means when the exposed and unvaccinated tourists returned home from Disneyland, the virus had a better chance to get a foothold and spread in their towns, Cherry said.
Measles can lead to blindness and encephalitis, an infection of the brain. Children are typically immunized with a first dose of vaccine at 12 to 16 months and a second at 4- to 6-years-old. A significant number of Americans have opted out of getting vaccinated.
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