The measles outbreak centered in California continues to expand, with officials now confirming 78 cases of the illness in seven states and Mexico.
The California Department of Public Health said there are now 68 cases in the state – 48 that have been directly linked to being at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure last month. Some people also visited one or both of the parks while infectious in January.
The measles outbreak has also spread beyond those who visited Disneyland in December and January and is infecting people in the broader community.
Nine counties in California have confirmed measles cases: Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Ventura. Cases connected to visiting Disneyland have also been confirmed in Utah (3), Washington state (2), Oregon (1), Colorado (1), Arizona (1), Nebraska (1) and Mexico (1).
Orange County now has 21 confirmed cases. Los Angeles County follows with 14 cases and San Diego County with 13.
The California patients range in age from 7 months to 70 years. The vaccination status is known for 39 of the patients. Of those, 32 were unvaccinated, one had received partial vaccination and seven were fully vaccinated.
Of the cases in California, about one in four have had to be hospitalized, officials said.
Disneyland officials confirmed to The Times that five Disneyland employees have been diagnosed with measles. All Disneyland employees who could have been in contact with those five have been asked to provide vaccination records or do a blood test that shows they have built immunity to the disease.
Any employees who had not been vaccinated or could not confirm their immunity status have been asked to go on paid leave until their status could be confirmed, company officials said.
Healthcare officials said it is safe to go Disneyland and other venues with large crowds if you are immunized for measles.
“I think it is absolutely safe for you to go to Disneyland if you’re vaccinated,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, the state epidemiologist.
But he cautioned that infants who are too young to be immunized should avoid large crowds where international travelers are concentrated, like theme parks and airports.
Symptoms of measles include fever as high as 105, cough, runny nose, redness of eyes, and a rash that begins at the head and then spreads to the rest of the body. It can lead to inflammation of the brain, pneumonia and death.
Health officials are urging people suspected of having the measles to first call their health provider before going to a clinic, enabling caregivers to make special preparations so patients don’t risk infecting others in the waiting room. An urgent care clinic in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa was forced to shut down last week when five people arrived with rashes
Federal recommendations call for the first dose of measles vaccination, known as MMR, be given at 12 to 15 months of age, and a second between ages 4 to 6. California law requires two doses of measles vaccination before kindergartners can enroll, but parents can get exemptions for the vaccines if they say the inoculations conflict with their personal beliefs.
For the first time in a dozen years, the number of California parents who cite personal beliefs in refusing to vaccinate their kindergartners dropped in 2014, according to a Times data analysis this week.