(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)
(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

Nine people who visited Disneyland or Disneyland California Adventure Park during December have confirmed measles cases, state health officials said Wednesday. Seven of the patients live in California and two live in Utah.

State and county health officers are investigating an additional four suspected cases, two in Utah and two in California. All the patients visited the parks in Orange County between Dec.15-20, California Department of Public Health officials said.

“If you have symptoms, and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider,” Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer, said in a statement. “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.”

Kathleen Harriman, chief of vaccine preventable diseases with the department, said that “it’s our speculation that there was an (infected) international visitor at one of the parks, and that person or persons was able to infect a lot of people.”

Measles is “a very infectious disease,” she added, and was eliminated from the United States in 2000. “So all the cases of measles in the United States originate with an imported case, even though there can be transmission once one of those cases gets here.” Measles is airborne and highly contagious. It can live on a surface where an infected person coughed or sneezed up to two hours and possibly infect others.

The California cases are in Alameda, Orange, Pasadena, Riverside and San Diego. The patients range in age from 8 months to 21 years. Of the seven California cases, six were not vaccinated, although two were too young to be vaccinated. The first of two recommended measles vaccine doses is typically given at 1 year of age.

Just one of the cases was fully vaccinated. Harriman said that while the measles vaccine is highly effective, “it confers lifelong immunity in 99 percent of people who receive two doses,” and there will always be a small number of people who can be infected despite vaccination.

One of the cases is in Alameda County. Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan said officials are “working with the health facility where the patient was seen” to identify other patients and health care workers who may have been exposed.

Pan said health officers will quarantine susceptible contacts, especially those at high risk of developing disease, “to make sure that contact stays home and away from other people to make sure that person does not infect others.”

Initial measles symptoms include fever, cough, running nose and red eyes. After a few days, a red rash appears on the face and then spreads downward to the rest of the body.

Pan said if people are concerned they “should check on their immunization status and get vaccinated” if needed.

Disney officials told the Associated Press that they had not received any reports of staff contracting measles. Park officials are working with the health department to provide any necessary information, said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

The California Department of Public Health has notified the Centers for Disease Control of the cases.

This post has been updated with a response from Disney.

  • mel

    This article notes a few things about transmission of measles and the measles vaccine itself that are complete generalizations and not based on factual information. The measles vaccine DOES NOT confer lifetime immunity.

    Ms. Aliferis, where did you obtain this information? You may want to revisit your sources for validity before writing such an article.

  • Kizar_Sozay

    Just read an article in The New Yorker lamenting the false statement from an earlier surgeon general about the war on infectious diseases being over. For all intents and purposes, in the US of A, it was nearly over. The author lamented how globalization has spread diseases to the West.

    The war on common infectious diseases was won. What we are doing now is inviting carriers of disease into the country or at least looking the other way as they arrive. Immigrants, in the past, were quarantined if infection was suspected. Now, there is no screening and the illegals are given plane tickets. All those diseases we thought were wiped out in the US……they’re baaaack.

  • theoldsgtmajor@aol.com

    A not surprising report considering the refusal by some to have their children vaccinated.

  • allbuss84

    Good, good! More measels cases means more people vaccinating their kids. When things work too well, stupid people stop doing them.

  • Mike Mellon

    I think we can reasonably conclude that the larger reservoir for the virus—and thus the larger outbreak—must be among the employees who work there, spreading it to day guests and keeping the infections growing inside the park.

    If the larger outbreak is among the employees who work there, then the lack of vaccination of kids probably has little to do with the outbreak at the resort as the vaccine is not 100% effective, and contagious employees are the ones who are spreading the virus.

    I wouldn’t go Disneyland for 6-8 months until this outbreak in the park has safely blown over.

    Disneyland better start a massive disinfection campaign to clean every nook and cranny of the park, or they can expect little or no customers for the next 6-8 months. What a disaster!!! Better safe than sorry.

  • DaisyOMP

    This should encourage more people to get vaccinated. In order to prevent some diseases from spreading, people should take the precautions into getting vaccinated. This helps to prevent the spread of these infectious diseases. Disney should not be blamed for the virus, since they did not purposely force the virus among people. The virus spreads among the people and end up spreading among the surfaces at Disneyland. Disney, now, should take this into action and can clean up the park every so often. Although vaccinations are not proved to be lifelong immunity, they still help limit the spread of viruses, diseases, infections, etc. People should consider getting vaccinated in order to limit the possibilities of getting sick. As well as, people staying home or separating themselves from people to stop the spread.


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED's State of Health blog. Since 2011, she's been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco's CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for "Best Topical Reporting" from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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