Peter J. Hotez
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that a person with an infectious case of measles visited Disneyland and a coffee shop last week, potentially exposing many others to the highly contagious virus.
The department warned of potential exposures on Oct. 16 at a Starbucks on S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles from 7:50 a.m. to 10 a.m. and at Disneyland from 9:15 a.m. to 8:35 p.m. It said it would provide information on additional possible measles exposure times and locations when details are available.
Measles can remain infectious in the air for up to 2 hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes.
This year, health officials have reported 19 measles cases in Los Angeles County residents and 11 cases in nonresidents who passed through the county. Most involved unimmunized individuals or people who did not know their immunization status.
Officials advised that county residents who are unvaccinated or who travel internationally be fully immunized to protect themselves against infection and prevent the spread of the virus.
A large 2014-2015 measles outbreak that resulted in more than 140 cases in California, Arizona, Utah, Washington, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Michigan and Mexico was linked to an exposure at Disneyland and resulted in legislative changes in California.
“Orange County experienced a terrible measles epidemic that began at Disneyland and spread because large numbers of children and adults were not vaccinated,” Peter J. Hotez, MD, MPH, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Since then, the California legislature has shut down the practice of nonmedical vaccination exemptions, but there remains a significant number of unvaccinated individuals.”
The Department of Public Health noted that those exposed to measles may be at risk for developing measles for up to 21 days after the initial exposure. Officials urge those who were exposed to review their medical records to determine if they were vaccinated against measles. If they were not vaccinated, they should notify their health care provider as soon as possible — especially if they are pregnant, have an infant who was exposed, have a compromised immune system and/or are unimmunized — and monitor themselves for illness with fever and/or an unexplained rash.
“I’m hopeful this time around, things won’t be as bad as they were 5 years ago, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” Hotez said. – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosure: Hotez reports no relevant financial disclosures.