2 More Orange County Measles Cases; 59 in State with 42 Linked to Disney Resorts: Update

A boy after three days with a measles rash. This photo was created in 1963.
A boy after three days with a measles rash. This photo was created in 1963.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

UPDATE NO. 6, JAN. 21, 3:58 P.M.: On the same day Orange County health officials revealed there are now two more cases of measles in the county, state health officials announced at a press conference there have been 59 confirmed cases in California since December, which 42 of them linked to initial exposure at Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure.

Of the two latest Orange County cases, one patient definitely visited at least one of the Anaheim resorts, according to the county Health Care Agency, which noted it is unclear where the second person caught the disease. This brings the county total to 20 cases.

The measles patients across California range in age from 11 months to 70 years old, according to state epidemiologist Gil Chavez, who adds one quarter of the inflicted had to be hospitalized.

Six of the Cali cases involve children who are less than a year old and too young to get shots, Chavez said. Kids should get their first shots at 12 to 14 months as well as a supplemental one before kindergarten, according to the state.

Upcoming Events

Chavez and Kathleen Harriman, head of the California Department of Public Health's Vaccine Preventable Disease Epidemiology Section, warned parents of infants younger than 1 to avoid large theme parks--such as Disneyland--or other places that attract big crowds.

"People ask whether it is safe to visit venues where measles has been identified and the answer is yes, it is perfectly safe, as long as you have been immunized,'' said Chavez (via City News Service).

UPDATE NO. 5, JAN. 21, 9:12 A.M.: Five employees ... I mean ... cast members were among the outbreak of measles patients from Anaheim's Disney resort in mid-December, including three who are already healthy enough to return to the Happiest Incubator on Earth.

"As soon as the Orange County Health Care Agency notified us on Jan. 7, we immediately began to communicate to our (employees) to raise awareness," says Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (via City News Service). "In an abundance of caution, we also offered vaccinations and immunity tests. To date, a few (employees) have tested positive and some have been medically cleared and returned to work. Cast members who may have come in contact with those who were positive are being tested for the virus. While awaiting results, they have been put on paid leave until medically cleared."

As of Tuesday, the Orange County Health Care Agency has confirmed 18 cases of measles countywide, with 11 of those having spent time at Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure since Dec. 17.

Of the total 18 cases, five are children who had not been immunized. The rest are adults but it is unclear how many had not received immunizations prior to their exposure, according to OC Health Care Agency 's Nicole Stanfield.

The agency is advising anyone who believes they have contracted measles to call their doctor's office before stopping in because the disease can spread obviously. Anyone who has not been vaccinated is urged to do so. Some who get shots may experience "mild illness," but they are not likely to be contagious, Stanfield says.

UPDATE NO. 4, JAN. 19, 10:27 A.M.: Measles linked to the Disneyland parks in Anaheim--which are not to blame, remind state health officials--is spreading so fast and wide it's difficult to pinpoint how many cases are out there.

This is from a Friday news report:

There were 52 confirmed measles cases as of Friday; 46 of them in California. . . . Of the 46 cases statewide, officials have linked at least 36 to the outbreak at Disneyland and the Disney's California Adventure theme park between Dec. 17 and Dec. 20. Another six cases outside of California have also been linked to the Disney outbreak, including an unvaccinated 2-year-old girl from Mexico.

This went up about a half-hour ago:

At least 42 cases of measles related to Disney have been diagnosed in California, plus three in Utah, two in Washington, one in Colorado and one in Mexico. The Mexican case is a 22-month-old girl.

That would add up to 49 related to the Happiest Place on Earth. But how ever many cases there are, it's obvious Orange County is ground zero. The 16 cases here as of Friday--10 of them linked to the Disney parks--represents the largest cluster of measles currently.

Orange County Public Health Officer Eric Handler issued a letter to parents last week stating that unvaccinated children exposed to measles may be excluded from school or day care for up to 21 days. "That's a pretty significant incentive to make sure your child gets immunized," he wrote. (Hat tip to KPCC.)

Pamela Kahn, health and wellness coordinator at the Orange County Department of Education, informed the parents of Huntington Beach High School students Thursday that students "who do not have any documented [measles, mumps and rubella] immunizations will be excluded from attending school until Jan. 29." The school responded by keeping 24 students out of classes, including one who contracted measles.

County health officials can justify this with the state health code, which empowers them to require those who have been exposed and who are unvaccinated to quarantine themselves. Refusing to comply with a health officer's quarantine order is a misdemeanor offense. A South Pasadena woman whose sister contracted measles at Disneyland told KABC7 that Los Angeles County officials had threatened her with arrest if she refused to quarantine herself.

Ironically, public health officials point to a different state law with having possibly played a part in the current spread of measles in California. It took effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and requires parents to obtain a note from a qualifying health professional before they can get a personal-belief exemption to vaccinations for their children.

Some point to the anti-vaxx movement, which is prevalent in some of the more upscale parts of the nation, with causing the measles caseload to jump nearly 350 percent last year in the United States. Keep in mind, as noted in an earlier post, that health officials thought measles had been wiped out completely in this country in 2000.

Jenny McCarthy, shown on The View, has been the face of the anti-vaccination movement.
Jenny McCarthy, shown on The View, has been the face of the anti-vaccination movement.

UPDATE NO. 3, JAN. 13, 7:31 A.M.: As the number of measles cases increases among guests who visited one of the Disneyland parks in Anaheim over specific days in December--Washington is now among the states with such diseased folks--some are wondering if the anti-vaccination movement that Jenny McCarthy was or is the face of is at least partly to blame.

McCarthy--the Playboy bunny-turned-MTV game show co-host-turned-The View-panelist-turned Mrs. Donnie Wahlberg--was hailed as "the nation's most prominent purveyor of anti-vaxxer ideology" after blaming her son's autism on vaccinations. She has since claimed, "I am not anti-vaccination" and said she advocates for more effective vaccinations.

Health officials have noticed an alarming trend of diseases once feared to have been wiped out in the U.S. returning to wealthier areas, where, presumably, the anti-vaccination movement has taken hold. Another who has noticed that is Jennifer Swann, who writes for takepart that "measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, owing to a highly effective vaccination program."

But then came the anti-vaccination movement that many credit to McCarthy, who said in a 2009 Time magazine interview, "I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe."

That has proven to be prophetic, as Swann writes:

In recent years, measles have resurfaced around the country predominantly in communities that refuse to vaccinate. A 2013 outbreak in Texas was linked to a Christian megachurch whose televangelist minister had condemned the use of vaccines, comparing them with injecting a child with a sexually transmitted disease.

In 2014, parents who refused to vaccinate their kids were blamed for an outbreak of potentially fatal whooping cough in unlikely places: the wealthy, elite neighborhoods of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, California, where up to 70 percent of parents filed "personal belief exemptions" from vaccinations with their children's schools, according to the The Hollywood Reporter. As a result, their vaccination rate was as low as that of Chad or South Sudan, The Atlantic concluded.

Concludes Swann, "Despite McCarthy's accusations, vaccines may be the only way to restore faith in the happiest place on Earth--and many other places in the United States."

UPDATE NO. 2, JAN. 9, 10:31 A.M.: Three more cases of measles contracted at the Disneyland Resort have been confirmed by the Orange County Health Care Agency. The latest patients all sought treatment in Orange at the St. Joseph's Hospital emergency room, Children's Hospital of Orange County and Quest Diagnostics Laboratory. Other patients and staffs at those facilities were likely exposed, the county warns.

UPDATE NO. 1, JAN. 7, 3:11 P.M.: The Disneyland Resort has released a brief statement about the nine measles cases state health officials today connected to the Anaheim theme parks.

"We are working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can," states Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Two siblings in San Diego County who visited the park and got measles may have exposed shoppers and employees at the Parkway Plaza mall in El Cajon, according to health officials in that county.

The pair visited the mall Dec. 29 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., stopping into GameStop, Sunglass Hut and the mall's carousel, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

"Anyone who was at Disneyland or the Parkway Plaza Mall on these dates should watch for symptoms and contact their health-care provider by telephone first, if they show any signs of the disease," Dr. Wilma Wooten, the San Diego County public health officer, tells City News Service.

There is no current risk of exposure by visiting those locations now, the health agency adds.

ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 7, 1:36 P.M.: At least nine confirmed cases of measles have been tied to Anaheim's Disney resort, state health officials revealed today. Seven people in California and two in Utah with highly infectious measles had visited Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, according to the state Department of Public Health, which adds three more suspected cases in the Golden State have yet to be confirmed.

Victims in Orange, Riverside, San Diego and Alameda counties range in age from 8 months to 21 years, according to the health department, adding six were unvaccinated, including two who were too young to have been vaccinated.

The original source of the infection is unknown, although state health officials suspect it spread from one person who visited an Anaheim theme park after already having contracted measles. It's an infectious, airborne disease.

Measles generally begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed within a few days by a red rash that usually appears on the face before spreading down to the rest of the body.

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

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Upcoming Events

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >