MeaslesBy now you’ve probably heard about the measles outbreak associated with travel to Disneyland.  CDC is reporting about 50 measles cases (in multiple states) who had been to Disneyland in late December.  Arizona joined the list this week.

This week we had 5 measles cases associated with the Disneyland outbreak, one in Maricopa County and 4 in Pinal County.  The Pinal County cases (confirmed today) were members of the same unvaccinated family.  Today’s confirmed cases greatly increase the chances that we will continue to have additional cases in coming days and weeks.

We’re following our standard protocols for measles investigation to make sure we reduce the chance of disease spread and rapidly identify new cases.  Epidemiology and nursing staff here and at county health departments are making sure healthcare providers are on the lookout for measles cases and rapidly report any suspect cases to public health for follow up and testing.

Anyone who may have been in contact with a measles case will be contacted to determine whether they have immunity or if they need to be on the watch for symptoms.  And of course, we’ll continue to remind folks to get vaccinated so they can protect themselves and their community from future outbreaks.

The US has had more measles cases last year (over 644) than in any other year since 2000, a year when measles had been eliminated.  There’s one basic reason for the increase in cases: a decrease in the percentage of kids that are vaccinated in the US, Europe and other parts of the world.

Measles is very contagious…90% of non-immune people in close contact with a measles case will get sick.  Because other parts of the world haven’t eradicated measles, international travelers from Europe, Africa, and Asia can bring measles into the US (or US travelers can contract the disease abroad), and spread it to people here who aren’t vaccinated.  By our most recent count, 94% of Arizona kindergarteners are completely vaccinated against measles, so the threat of an outbreak looms large for pockets of Arizona where people are unvaccinated.

Further complicating the issue are people right on the cusp of measles immunity.  About 95%-98% of people born before 1957 are considered immune to measles because the disease was so widely circulating during their childhood (they almost surely had measles as a kid)…but the vaccine wasn’t licensed until 1963. Adults born on or after 1957 should talk to their provider about getting vaccinated.