Maricopa County woman tests positive for measles after Disneyland visit

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX – A woman in Maricopa County tested positive for measles after visiting Disneyland in mid-December, according to health officials. She has since recovered.

Officials said the woman in her 50s had little exposure to Maricopa County residents during her infectious period.

Maricopa County Department of Public Health is aware of the individuals she may have exposed and those people are being contacted to ensure they do not have symptoms related to measles.

"Mitigating factors allowed this person to go unreported for a few weeks," said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "Luckily, we were able to quickly identify the small group of individuals that may have been exposed."

The woman is one of dozens of cases stemming from the outbreak in Disneyland last month.

Health officials said measles is a vaccine-preventable viral illness that is the most contagious disease on Earth. It can easily spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can survive in the air for hours and may be transmitted even after an infected individual is no longer in the room/area.

"People are infectious with measles four days before they ever develop a rash," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at Maricopa County Public Health. "That's the scariest part about measles. Most people have no idea they have it and they're highly infectious and exposing people before anyone ever thinks about measles."

She said that's why it's so important for people to get vaccinated.

"People who are getting the measles are unvaccinated," Sunenshine said. "Everybody in the community needs to make sure that they're immune to measles. You never know when you're going to be exposed.

"A lot of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children, both here and in Europe, and a lot of the cases that are introduced into the United States are from travelers from Europe where they're vaccinating even less," she continued.

Sunenshine said adults over the age of 20 and children under 5 have the most severe complications from measles.

"About one to two in a thousand cases actually die from measles so this is not a benign illness," she said.

People who were immunized by getting two doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine or previously had the disease should be protected from measles.

The vaccine takes two weeks to be effective, but offers 92 percent protection after just the first dose.

"Vaccines are never perfect, but the measles vaccine is the closest to perfect we have," Sunenshine said.

Health officials say they are monitoring schools in the Valley. If a case is reported at a school, unvaccinated children will be required to stay home for at least 21 days.

Symptoms:

• Typically appear 7 to 12 days after exposure to measles but may take up to 21 days;

• Begin with fever (101 F or higher), red, watery eyes, cough and runny nose;

• Followed by a rash that is red, raised, and blotchy. The rash begins on the face at the hairline and moves down the body. The rash may last for 5 to 6 days and may turn brownish.

For more information on measles' signs and symptoms or where to find vaccine, visit www.WeArePublicHealth.org.

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