Arizona measles outbreak reaches 'critical point'
By Connie Cone Sexton and Paulina Pineda in USA Today
A 4-month-old baby was exposed to the measles virus during a visit to Phoenix Children's Hospital's and she is only one of the 195 others who were potentially exposed.
Two more cases of measles were confirmed in Arizona on Tuesday, and public health officials have warned that hundreds more people in the state may have been exposed this month.
Both of the cases confirmed Tuesday — a man in Pinal County and a woman in Phoenix — were linked to a family of four whose measles cases were confirmed last week following travel to Disneyland in California.
The outbreak of measles has reached "a critical point," according to Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. The outbreak has the potential to be far worse than the state's last measles outbreak in 2008, he said.
Humble said the number of cases will "absolutely" continue to grow.
"I am certain we will have more just based on the sheer number of people exposed this time," he said.
Health officials believe the Phoenix-area woman recently diagnosed with measles may have exposed as many as 195 children to the disease at the Phoenix Children's East Valley Center on Jan. 20 and 21.
Maricopa County officials were in the process of contacting the children's families Tuesday. A hospital official told 12 News that the woman was not an employee and it was not known why she was at the facility.
Humble said that although officials have a list of people who were at the hospital, the problem is not knowing whether those exposed to the measles have had contact with other people in large gatherings or traveled outside their county.
"You spread it (the measles) before you feel bad," he said, adding that symptoms usually appear about a week after exposure.
The confirmed case also prompted Maricopa County health officials to recommend that all exposed children who have not had at least one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to stay home from school or day care for the 21-day incubation period. Officials also said exposed adults who were born after 1957, have not had measles or have had only one MMR vaccine, should not go to work or public places for the same 21-day period.
Health officials say two doses of the MMR vaccine provide full protection against measles.
The Pinal County case also raises the possibility of exposure for other residents or visitors in the area, as the man who is now recovering visited various public locations while still infectious. Officials have compiled a list of businesses where the man visited Thursday and Friday, including a Kearny, Ariz. gas station and post office.
Humble said the state has been in contact with health workers across Arizona, alerting them to measles symptoms.
"For many clinicians, it's an illness they've never seen," he said.
According to Pinal County health officials, measles begins with a fever, red and watery eyes, a cough and a runny nose, followed by a red, raised and blotchy rash that begins on the head at the hairline and moves to the lower extremities. Symptoms typically appear seven to 12 days after exposure to measles but may take up to 21 days.
The recent outbreak is thought to have originated at Disneyland before Christmas. The California Department of Public Health reported last week that the state has 59 confirmed cases, with 42 linked to Disneyland or California Adventure in Anaheim. The outbreak has spread to Washington, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Arizona.
Last week, Maricopa County officials reported that a woman in her 50s tested positive for measles, which they believe she contracted at Disneyland.
1) Many people think enough people are vaccinated to where any kind of measles pandemic outbreak would never occur.
2) Now the facts on the ground that suggest “otherwise” may be happening. Said another way, many people may now have to die as a result of earlier decisions.
3) It is a “crap shoot at best”. All the rumors and other such things about vaccinations are based on real experiences in my mind.
4) Now whether I am unlucky enough to get sick from a vaccine, or want to risk dying from the basic disease and earlier decision is up to the parents of kids, and later adults for our own decisions.