A measles outbreak that has been associated with travel to Disneyland caused the CDC to issue a health advisory to public health departments and healthcare facilities across the country on Jan. 23.
The spread of measles started in California in December when patients reported visiting Disneyland Resort Theme Parks in Orange County, according to the advisory. With 51 confirmed cases of measles linked to the outbreak, the CDC reports that 42 are from California. Utah leads the rest of the states in the outbreak with three confirmed cases.
The CDC is especially concerned because in six of the cases the patients had been vaccinated.
Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but the CDC says outbreaks can occur when unvaccinated groups are exposed to measles in other countries. Half of the new cases in the United States were linked to travel in the Philippines during an outbreak of measles in that country.
In Utah, the three confirmed cases of measles are in Utah County. According the Utah Department of Health, 393 people have been exposed to the virus, 235 people were declared immune and 10 cases are being monitored for 21 days.
Measles are highly contagious and spread through coughing and sneezing. People infected with the virus can spread it five days before the appearance of a rash and up to four days after the rash appears, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Symptoms are similar to a severe cold with a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever and red, watery eyes. White spots will form inside the mouth a day or so after symptoms begin. A rash will begin to spread from the ears and hairline to the entire body. Symptoms may last from four to seven days.
Although there is no treatment for measles, health-care providers can help patients avoid complications such as bronchitis, encephalitis, ear infection and pneumonia.
Weber State University senior in supply chain management Robert Nielson believes those who opt out of vaccinations through waivers may be to blame.
“I think the trend of parents not vaccinating their kids is ridiculous. Look at how many serious diseases we have all but eradicated by having everyone vaccinated,” said Nielson.
In some California elementary schools, 50 percent of the students reportedly have not had MMR boosters. The lack of vaccination in California schools is due to the high exemption rates.
Nielson believes that this is to blame for the measles outbreak. He said exemptions should be given only to children with medical conditions. Personal beliefs should not be a factor.
“Unless there is a medical reason, all kids should have vaccines. Even if my kid was vaccinated, I wouldn’t want them exposed to someone who had the disease,” said Nielson. “Those parents are putting a potential health epidemic into play by not vaccinating their own children.”
The CDC is urging health-care providers to ensure all patients are up to date on their MMR vaccinations and to isolate suspected measles cases.
If you suspect you may have measles, the Utah Department of Health has an online questionnaire available to ensure that you do not go out and spread the virus unnecessarily at elr.health.utah.gov/measles.