More Than 1,000 People in Arizona May Have Been Exposed to Measles

With seven measles cases now identified in Arizona, health officials estimate that more than 1,000 people in the state may have been exposed to the highly contagious disease.

Five of those confirmed cases, including a family of four who lives in Pinal County, were linked to the December measles outbreak at Disneyland in California. Two additional cases were confirmed this week -- including a man from Pinal County and a woman from Maricopa County -- both of whom were exposed to the family of four.

New Times reported Wednesday that the woman in Maricopa County may have exposed 190 people to measles at an urgent-care center for children in Mesa, but the state health department is estimating exposure to about 1,000 people in the state.

See also: -190 People Possibly Exposed to Measles at Urgent Care Center for Children in Mesa

Measles is an extremely contagious disease, although the symptoms don't immediately appear. A person can be contagious before the rash and fever appear, and symptoms don't show up for about seven days and possibly as much as 21 days after being exposed.

Most of the people infected were not vaccinated, and health officials say the measles vaccine is 99 percent effective.

In addition to the 190 to 195 people possibly exposed at the Phoenix Children's East Valley Center, state and county health officials have identified other places where people could have been exposed to measles.

One of the kids from the family of four in Pinal County was taken to multiple urgent-care facilities, exposing 18 children. Thirteen of those 18 children were unvaccinated, mostly because they're too young (under 1 year old) to receive the vaccine.

Elsewhere, the Pinal County man with measles who was exposed by the family of four went to five different places, according to the Pinal County Public Health Department. Each of those locations is in Kerny, Arizona.

"We have already contacted these places of business this patient visited," Pinal County Public Health acting director Kore Redden says in a statement. "These businesses are assisting the health department by placing signs at their entrances to inform customers and employees that they could have been exposed if they were in these locations during specific timeframes."

In Maricopa County, the people potentially exposed at the urgent-care center are being asked to stay home for 21 days if they're not vaccinated.

"This is a critical point in this outbreak," state health services director Will Humble writes on his blog. "If the public health system and medical community are able to identify every single susceptible case and get them into isolation, we have a chance of stopping this outbreak here. However, if we miss any potential cases and some of them go to a congregate setting with numerous susceptible contacts, we could be in for a long and protracted outbreak."

In a conference call with reporters today, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the vaccinations are key to stopping the spread.

"It is frustrating that some people have opted out of vaccinations," she said, adding that perhaps the fact that this generation hasn't experienced these diseases could be a contributing factor as to why some people aren't getting vaccinated.

As far as the Super Bowl is concerned, the CDC is taking no special precautions.

"I wouldn't expect the Super Bowl to be a place where many unvaccinated people are congregating," Schuchat said.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley