Measles Case in Maricopa County Linked to Disneyland Outbreak

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has confirmed a case of measles in the county, which is being linked to an outbreak in Disney theme parks in California.

The woman with measles in Maricopa County wasn't identified by county officials, but the woman, in her fifties, has since recovered. However, there's a possibility that she spread the disease, which officials say is the most contagious on earth.

Officials in California yesterday announced the total number of people obtaining measles from this outbreak was 59, not including the Arizona case, and the disease was still spreading.

"Cases are now being identified in persons who have no links to Disney," California Center for Infectious Diseases deputy director Dr. Gil Chavez said in a press conference yesterday.

See also: -2014: Case of Measles Confirmed in Maricopa County

Chavez noted that measles -- which comes with symptoms such as a fever of up to 105 degrees, a cough, runny nose, and rash -- can be "very serious, with devastating consequences." The measles vaccine in 99 percent effective, Chavez said, and most cases involve people who aren't vaccinated.

According to the California Department of Public Health, 42 of these cases were linked to exposure at the two Disney parks in southern California in December. Five Disney employees were among the infected.

California officials said yesterday that of 34 measles patients that had vaccination information on, 28 were not vaccinated at all, and one was only partially vaccinated.

Officials in Maricopa County say the woman here had "little exposure" to others in the county.

"Public Health is aware of those individuals whom she may have exposed and those people are being directly contacted to ensure they do not have symptoms related to measles," the county health department says in a statement.

Maricopa County health officials also aren't ruling out the possibility that there are more secondary cases of measles in the county.

The last confirmed case of measles in Maricopa County occurred in April 2014, when a man with measles flew into Sky Harbor airport from Europe. There were no subsequent infections in Maricopa County in that case.

Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, although sporadic outbreaks do occur.

UPDATE 1:36 p.m.: Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine from the county health department tells New Times that most of the people who came into contact with the woman have been notified, and there are no new cases at this point.

When the woman initially sought medical attention, the county was unaware of the measles outbreak in Disneyland, so it wasn't immediately identified as measles, Sunenshine says. However, she says measures were taken to prevent the transmission of a disease to others at the hospital.

Speaking to the severity of measles, Sunenshine tells us about one or two in 1,000 people with the disease die, and there were about 500 deaths a year in the U.S. from measles before it was eradicated. Plus, you can get measles from "just standing in a room with someone who's infected," she says.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley