12 Cases Of Measles From Disneyland, Dropping Vaccination Rates To Blame?

Justin Streight

Sometime before Christmas, a person infected with measles visited either Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, CA, leading to a dozen or so more cases of the highly contagious disease. Doctors say that as fewer and fewer children receive immunizations, the more likely such incidents will happen in the future.

According to CBS News, all the people infected with measles visited the Disney theme parks between December 15 through December 20, and had an age range of 8 months to 21 years old. In addition to the first patient, health officials believe there are 11 cases; seven Californians, two people from Utah and three more that officials have yet to confirm.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the cases are not a freak accident, but part of a rising trend in California, caused in part by fewer parents having their children immunized.

The year 2014 was the worst for California in about two decades. Health officials confirmed over 61 cases of measles in 2014 - not including the Disney cases - many of which could be traced to unvaccinated residents returning from the Philippines, where outbreaks continue to be a substantial problem.

Even a few unvaccinated people can cause havoc with the highly contagious disease.

The vaccination rate for measles in California is still 92 percent, down only three percent from 2002. Still, that's enough to cause outbreaks.

USA Today reports that the disease is transmissible through a simple cough, and can hang in the air for two hours while waiting for a host. In an environment where no people are vaccinated, one case of measles can spawn 12 to 18 more.

This hazard leads doctors, like Gil Chavez from the California Department of Public Health, to urge parents to have their children vaccinated at a young age, explaining, "measles outbreaks in the state are perfect examples of the consequences and costs to individuals and communities when parents choose not to vaccinate their children."

Not too long ago, California was a hotbed for measles. In 1989 to 1990, about 15,000 cases where reported, leading to 70 deaths. As UCLA infectious disease expert Dr. James Cherry explained, many more suffered permanent damage from the disease.

"For every 500 cases, there will be a death, and there will be two cases of encephalitis — inflammation of the brain — and many of those will end up with permanent brain damage."

Some of the cases from Disney were of young children, too young to have received a vaccine. At that age, under a year old, children are most vulnerable. Unable to receive the vaccination, their biggest hope to prevent a case of measles is for others to be immunized and safe.

[Image Credit: Carterhawk/Wikimedia Commons]