Most children leave Disneyland with Mickey Mouse ears, selfies with favorite characters, and sacks of souvenirs. But, some young visitors in December left with something else besides Magic Kingdom memories and mementoes. An outbreak of measles has been tied back to trips to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park a few weeks ago.
California’s Department of Public Health has announced that it is currently investigating nine cases of measles cases tied to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park. The nine people, who are from California and Utah, all visited the two theme parks during the holidays in the week prior to Christmas, most likely between Dec. 15 and 20. Health officials believe that a single person with measles went to the theme parks during that period and exposed other visitors.
The people who have been diagnosed with the measles were from different parts of California. Doctors identified patients in Alameda, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties, as well as the city of Pasadena in Los Angeles County. Two members of a family in Utah were also diagnosed. The geographic diversity and overlapping timing lead health officials to try to determine where they all could have been exposed and found their trips to the Magic Kingdom as the common denominator.
Others who were in the theme parks during the period were undoubtedly exposed too. Furthermore, whoever visited the Disney parks with the measles could have exposed others wherever they visited while contagious.
The disease has an incubation period of 10 to 14 days from exposure to developing the measles rash, and people can remain infectious for nine days. So, someone who was exposed in December could be contagious now.
As a result, public health officials are also looking at places those infected on their trips to the Anaheim Disney properties may have subsequently exposed other people. For example, health officials in San Diego have indicated that two infected siblings in that area could have exposed people where they visited the El Cajon Parkway Plaza Mall on Dec. 29. They were known to stop at the Sunglasses Hut, the GameStop, and the mall carousel between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day.
Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that spreads easily through coughing, sneezing or contact with someone who has been infected. Crowded places like a school, mall or theme park are problematic because the virus can live for up to two hours on a door, handrail or other surface where the infected person sneezed or coughed. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of those people who are not immune by come into contact with the highly contagious virus will become infected.
People who get measles often do not know at first that they have more than a cold or flu; the telltale red rash does not usually break out until day three to five of the illness. Measles is usually not serious, but three out of 10 patients develop complications. Furthermore, it can be deadly, or lead to paralysis and birth defects.
Measles had largely been eradicated in the U.S., but there has been a marked increase in confirmed cases in recent years. This is directly attributable to parents choosing to not have their children vaccinated against measles and other formerly common childhood diseases making a resurgence.
Public health officials encourage anyone who may have been exposed or in showing symptoms to contact their healthcare provider. As state health officer Ron Chapman noted, “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.” But, for those who did not get vaccinated and went on trips to Disneyland during the period (or anywhere those who were infected there went since the beginning of the year or tied to those people) to be aware there is a measles outbreak and it is spreading.
By Dyanne Weiss