Disneyland measles outbreak: Infected woman took 2 flights before diagnosis

Woman infected with measles after Disneyland visit hopped two flights before she was diagnosed

A wave of measles cases traced to Disneyland threatens to spread farther. An unvaccinated California resident infected in the outbreak traveled by plane between Orange County and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport during the holidays, health officials said. 

The number of measles cases stemming from the outbreak has risen to 26 and now involves Washington state, Utah and Colorado.

The airline passenger, a woman in her 20s, fell ill after visiting Disneyland in December and became contagious on Dec. 28. She flew from Orange County to Seattle on Dec. 29, stayed with family in Washington's Snohomish County and returned to Orange County on Jan. 3. She wasn't diagnosed until Jan. 8 in California, health officials in Washington state said.

The passenger flew to Seattle on Alaska Airlines Flight 505 on Dec. 29, a Washington health official said. She returned to Orange County on Jan. 3 on Virgin America Flight 1780.

An unvaccinated man in Colorado picked up measles after a visit to Disneyland as well. He was treated at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs and recovered, but officials warned that patients at that facility may have been exposed to the virus on Jan. 3. Officials are contacting those who may have been affected. It was the first time a measles case was reported in Colorado’s El Paso County since 1992.

Two cases were confirmed in Utah last week, and health officials have been closely monitoring more than 350 people who could have been exposed, state officials said. No additional cases have been reported so far in Utah, and about 200 people are still being closely monitored in Utah County. 

There are now 22 cases in California of measles related to the Disneyland outbreak, in the counties of Alameda (3), Los Angeles (3), Orange (9), Riverside (2), San Bernardino (2), San Diego (2), and Ventura (1). Of the cases in L.A. County, one each occurred in the cities of Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.

Measles patients who were infected after attending Disneyland visited the theme park between Dec. 17 and Dec. 20, and anyone who would have picked up the virus during that time frame should have shown illness by Jan. 10. But officials are anticipating that people who contracted measles at Disneyland could have spread it to those who did not attend the theme park during that week in December.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The virus spreads through respiratory droplets that are sent airborne by a cough or sneeze. "You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been — even if the person is gone," the CDC says.

Measles starts with fever, then coughing, a runny nose, red eyes and finally a rash that begins on the head and spreads to the rest of the body, the CDC says. A high fever can persist, the rash can last for as long as a week, and coughing can continue for about 10 days.

Many of those infected with measles in this outbreak either weren't vaccinated because of a parent’s choice or were too young to be vaccinated.

An anti-vaccination movement has gathered steam in the last decade or so, driven by parents who question the medical consensus that inoculations are safe. Scientists have thoroughly discredited the idea that vaccines can trigger autism. 

Follow @RosannaXia and @ronlin for more California news.

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