Most of the measles cases are linked to an outbreak at Disneyland in December, which caused 40 employees and park patrons to become infected (and another 18 to suffer secondary infections).
The year 2014 saw a record number of measles cases in 2014, with 644 illnesses reported in 27 states. Nationwide, there have been 154 reported cases of measles since January 1, 2015; 90 percent of these cases stem from three major outbreaks.
While measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and Europe, it was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, thanks in large part to many years of childhood vaccination efforts. Children typically get their first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine at 12 months old, then a second dose before the child begins kindergarten. The measles cases in 2014 represent the highest number of cases since the year 2000, and the majority of those who were infected were unvaccinated.
“Measles is highly contagious and highly preventable through vaccinations,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, the Deputy Director of the California Department of Public Health’s Center for Infectious Diseases. “CDPH is urging caution to individuals who are not vaccinated, especially infants under 12 months. Any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated.
It is safe to visit these places, including the Disneyland Resort, if you are vaccinated. Therefore, CDPH recommends that anyone not already immunized against measles gets immunized at this time. Two doses of measles-containing vaccine (MMR vaccine) are more than 97 percent effective in preventing measles. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, check with your doctor to have a test to check for measles immunity or to receive vaccination.”
The measles virus is highly contagious and spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat, followed by a rash that spreads all over the body.
“Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit.”
The fever typically subsides and the rash fades after a few days. However, poor and malnourished children and people with compromised immune systems can suffer severe complications from measles, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia.
The rash of measles cases across the country has affected some states more than others. And, not surprisingly, the rules for vaccinating vary wildly from coast to coast.