A measles outbreak that began at two Disney theme parks in Anaheim, California, last December has spread to seven states and Mexico. The California Department of Public Health now reports 68 cases in 11 parts of the state.
Cases have also been confirmed in Washington, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Nebraska, Arizona, and Mexico.
Most of those who have gotten sick did not have their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination. The disease was virtually eliminated in the United States by year 2000, but can still enter the country from places where it’s common.
Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus, said those who are not having their children vaccinated are not the poor or low-income Americans, but parents with higher-than-average incomes and education. He also stated these parents are politically liberal and self-identify as environmentally conscious.
They’re sometimes called anti-vaxxers, and at one time had a strong voice, but parents who want their children protected against measles also began to speak.
California is one of 20 states that allows children not to be vaccinated because of parents’ personal beliefs. But the state tightened its rules last year, mandating that parents who forego vaccines get a signed statement from a doctor stating they understand the risk.
Personal-belief exemptions for kindergartners fell from 3.1 percent in 2013 to 2.5 percent in 2014. The state also allows a religious exemption.
Measles vaccination status for 34 of the California patients, reportedly is as follows.
- 28 were not vaccinated
- 6 were babies, too young for vaccinations
- 5 were fully vaccinated
- 1 was partially vaccinated
It is possible for vaccinated patients to contract measles, but symptoms are usually less severe.
Dr. Gill Chavez, California state epidemiologist, explained that the measles virus is a serious one.
“Measles is not a trivial disease. It can be very serious with devastating consequences.”
Possible outcomes from measles are pneumonia, encephalitis, (swelling of the brain) and death.
Measles is an airborne virus and highly contagious. Symptoms are a fever, followed by cold symptoms, including a cough and a runny nose. The virus results in a rash that begins on the face and neck, but spreads throughout the body.
Patients are contagious four days before the rash appears and four days after. An infected person who sneezes or coughs can spread the virus that can live on surfaces for as long as two hours.
The virus can incubate for up to 14 days with no visible symptoms.
Preventing measles outbreaks like California’s requires immunizations against the disease. A recommended vaccination schedule for measles and other preventable diseases can be found here.
[Image: Opposing Views]