RIVERSIDE COUNTY: 2 siblings among victims of Disneyland measles outbreak

Both were unvaccinated, a county official says. They are among at least nine people who contracted the disease after visiting Disneyland last month.


Published: Jan. 7, 2015 Updated: 10:19 p.m.

At least nine people – including two unvaccinated Riverside County siblings – contracted measles after visiting Disneyland Resort in mid-December, state health officials said Wednesday.

Public health officials are also investigating three additional cases of suspected measles, which is highly contagious, and a spokesman with the department said it would not be surprising to see more cases.

All 12 reported visiting Disneyland or Disney California Adventure between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20. An infected park-goer likely spread the virus, officials said.

Seven of the patients are California residents and two are from Utah. The Calfornians are from Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Alameda counties, and the city of Pasadena. Six were children and three were hospitalized.

Disneyland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel, said she was working with the state health department to “provide any information and assistance we can.”

Measles used to sicken up to 4 million Americans each year, but it was eliminated in the United states after the introduction of a vaccine in the 1960s. Though uncommon, outbreaks still happen when international visitors and unvaccinated Americans become infected while abroad, then bring the disease to the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the nine confirmed cases linked to Disneyland, only one was vaccinated, according to the state Department of Public Health. Two were too young to be vaccinated. Children generally get their first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine beginning at age 1.

Neither of the Riverside County children was vaccinated. Jose Arballo Jr., spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Public Health, said one was under age 1 and therefore too young. The other he described only as younger than 10. He couldn’t release what city they live in but said it is in western Riverside County.

Both are expected to recover, Arballo said.

Measles causes fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and red rashes. In some cases, people can die from complications of measles.
Infected people can spread measles from four days before until four days after their rash appears, according to the CDC. It spreads through coughing and sneezing, and the virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace or on a surface.

“Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” the CDC says.

“It’s one of the most highly contagious diseases,” said Barbara Cole, director of disease control for the Riverside County Department of Public Health. “You could have a major outbreak if you have people exposed who are not protected.”

She said children who are contagious would be isolated at home. Schools require students to be vaccinated, but parents may opt out by signing a personal-belief exemption.

Cole said 97 percent of Riverside County students have been vaccinated for measles.

She said anyone who exhibits symptoms such as fever and rash should contact their doctor – but should not show up for treatment until told so that precautions can be taken.

Cole encouraged parents to get vaccinations for their children and said any parents with concerns about potential side effects from vaccinations should talk with a doctor.

Staff writer Joseph Pimentel contributed to this report.