The Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads


“We spent 3 days in the hospital fearing we might lose our baby boy,” a mother, Megan, told the CDC of her 10-month-old son after he came down with Measles. “He couldn’t drink or eat, so he was on an IV, and for a while he seemed to be wasting away.” His fever spiked as high as 106 degrees, and even after taking him home, Megan spent another week, waking at all hours, trying to soothe him with damp washcloths. Thankfully, he eventually recovered.

The Disneyland Measles outbreak alone has now sickened 70 people. About one in four of those people wound up hospitalized in a nightmarish scenario similar to Megan’s. Even if the Measles doesn’t kill a child or cause encephalitis (brain swelling) or pneumonia—which it does for one in sixteen infected people—Measles is a terrible disease.

The Outbreak is spreading

We’ve probably all heard about the Disneyland measles outbreak that occurred amongst a number of people who visited Disneyland between Dec 17 and Dec 20. Well, it’s spreading. According to ABC News, the Disney measles outbreak has now sickened 70 people across 11 counties in California, and in Utah, Washington, Colorado, and Mexico.

It’s likely that the Disneyland measles outbreak happened when someone who thought they had a mild cold sneezed. The measles starts with a runny nose, fever, red eyes, and a cough. It’s contagious up to four days before the signature rash appears. It’s airborne and can linger in the air for a couple of hours after an infected person breathed or sneezed there.

And, once someone has measles, it can take up to 21 days from their exposure to the virus until symptoms start to show. So sadly, people can spread the disease really easily, before they even know they have it.

Quarantines and Forced Leave of Absences

The ripple effect of the Disneyland Measles outbreak is pretty incredible. Disneyland confirmed to The Times that five Disneyland employees have tested positive for Measles. Consequently, Disneyland offered vaccinations and immunity tests to employees. Disneyland then required any employee who didn’t to show proof of immunity to take a leave of absence.

Also, a Huntington Beach High School Student, infected by the outbreak, returned to class after winter break, accidentally putting the school at risk. Health officials have responded by requiring 23 unvaccinated kids there to stay home from school, for 21 days.

“If there is a case in the school and their child is not immunized, they will be removed from the school for 21 days,” said Dr. Eric Handler, the Orange County public health officer. “From an epidemiological standpoint, in order to prevent spread of the disease, this is a necessary measure.”

In San Diego, an urgent care facility was shut down after five people arrived with the measles rash. Anyone without proof of vaccination who came into contact with people there was also put under a 21 day quarantine.

Officials urge those who suspect they may have measles to contact their doctor’s office before going there, so the office can make special arrangements to prevent others getting sick.

Are our kids safe?

Children don’t typically receive their first Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine until at least 12-months-old, so most infants exposed to measles are not protected. The CDC recommends a child receive their first dose of the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months old. Even after their first dose, 2-5% of kids, are non-responders who still don’t develop immunity. A second dose is given at 4-6 years old, which brings immunity up to about 99%.

For any number of other reasons, other people don’t vaccinate—if a person has a weakened immune system, for example while receiving chemotherapy, they may not be able to get vaccinated. Some people are also allergic to certain vaccines. And, of course, an increasing number of people are choosing not to vaccinate, due to questions about the safety of vaccines.

If someone doesn’t have immunity to measles, for whatever reason, and they’re in the vicinity of someone with measles, chances are very high that they will get Measles too. “Measles is so contagious,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement, “that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”

Is the MMR vaccine safe?

This is the million dollar question fueling the anti-vaccination movement.

Even if you don’t want to rely on the CDC or any individual clinical trial, rest-assured there’s independent big picture data out there for you. A literature review of 36 clinical trials, involving about 14,700,000 children showed no causal association between MMR vaccine and autism.

The MMR vaccine also doesn’t use the Mercury-containing preservative, Thimerasol, which some people believe could be harmful. Likewise, it doesn’t contain Formaldehyde, Aluminum or other controversial ingredients.

Dr. Sears (a pediatrician and author who has raised controversy over the safety of vaccines) suggests that multiple live virus strains in the MMR vaccine, all at once, may be a bit intense for a young immune system. But real CDC data shows a person only has a one-in-a-million chance of pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling) or death due to the MMR vaccine, compared to a one-in-sixteen chance of one of those maladies if they get the Measles. Now that Measles is rearing its ugly head all over the place, this may make some folks revisit the question of which is riskier. And even Dr. Sears (who’s pro-vaccine, by the way, just looking for safer options) posted an article on his blog on Friday, stating, “PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: GET YOUR VACCINE”, in reference to a discussion on Measles.

What’s next?

We pray. We pray that our babies who are too young to be vaccinated don’t get seriously ill with the Measles. We wish a smooth recovery for those who do get Measles. Hopefully we try not to judge or criticize people who have different feelings than we do about vaccines.  Hopefully we do share facts and evidence though, to help people make an educated decision.

Will we hear of more hospitalization stories like Megan’s? Definitely. Will the Measles outbreaks get worse or better? The trend doesn’t look good. Will we have to do more quarantines, leave of absences, and requirements for proof of vaccinations? Probably.  A lot will need to change for things to turn around. So, we shall see.

Maybe your voice will make a difference.



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