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Disney measles outbreak: Resort asks staff for proof they're protected

Disneyland requires some exposed workers to show proof they're immune to measles

Disneyland Resort employees who had contact with measles-stricken coworkers have been asked to stay home unless they can show they’ve been vaccinated or take a blood test to show they’re immune, Disney officials told the Los Angeles Times.

On Tuesday, company officials confirmed to The Times that five Disneyland Resort employees had been diagnosed with measles. Two had been vaccinated, health officials said, and the vaccination status of the other workers is still being investigated.

All resort workers who could have been in contact with those five have been asked to provide vaccination records or submit to 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 were asked to go on paid leave until their status could be confirmed, Disney officials said.

"As soon as the O.C. Health Care Agency notified us on Jan. 7, we immediately began to communicate to our cast to raise awareness," Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement. "In an abundance of caution, we also offered vaccinations and immunity tests."

The news came on the heels of Huntington Beach Union High School District’s announcement that about two dozen students who had no proof of measles immunization were ordered to stay away from campus.

The move is part of what officials described as the worst outbreak in California in 15 years. There are now a total of 54 patients across California as well as three other states and Mexico.

Health officials ordered the students out of class after they learned that a Huntington Beach High School student who was infected with the disease had come to class when school resumed after winter break. They said they would take the same action in other schools if measles are detected.

"If there is a case in the school and their child is not immunized, they will be removed from the school for 21 days," said Dr. Eric Handler, the Orange County public health officer. "From an epidemiological standpoint, in order to prevent spread of the disease, this is a necessary measure."

Orange County is home to several upscale communities where a higher than average number of parents have opted to not fully vaccinate their children because of their personal beliefs. Experts say it's a problem when 8% or more decline vaccines that keep diseases such as measles from spreading.

In the Huntington Beach City School District, two out of seven elementary schools' kindergarten classes exceed that number: S.A. Moffett Elementary, where 10% were exempted from vaccines for personal beliefs, and Huntington Seacliff Elementary, pegged at 11%.

A Times analysis published last year found that 9.5% of kindergartners at Capistrano Unified in south Orange County in 2013 were exempted from vaccinations because of personal beliefs; the rate was 14.8% at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified. The rate statewide that year was 3.1%.

Orange County's move to keep unvaccinated students from classes is being watched across the state as measles immunization rates have been declining almost every year since 2002 among California's kindergartners. Vaccines have been viewed with suspicion despite numerous scientific reports thoroughly discrediting the notion that vaccines cause autism.

"The vaccine is safe," Handler said. "We can prevent this disease if people get vaccinated."

Twitter: @ronlin, @RosannaXia, @NicoleKShine

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