A Colorado resident has tested positive for measles after traveling to Disneyland (in Calif.) in mid-December, where public health officials believe the patient was exposed to the virus. At least 9 other cases have been linked to visiting Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park between Dec. 15 – 20, 2014. On Jan. 3, 2015 while infectious, the patient was hospitalized at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. Because the incubation period is 7-21 days, susceptible exposed individuals could develop measles symptoms between Jan 10 – 24, 2015.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that causes fever and rash illness that can be severe or fatal. 30% of measles cases develop complications that can include pneumonia or encephalitis (which can result in permanent brain damage). El Paso Public Health are making every effort to notify potentially exposed individuals from the Jan. 3 contact. Along with the large numbers of visitors to Disneyland, unidentified exposures may still exist. Nearly all susceptible persons (such as those who are unimmunized) with close contact to a measles patient will develop measles. Measles is spread through the air, with airborne transmission in closed areas up to 2 hours after a person with measles occupied that area. A person can spread measles 3-5 days BEFORE they develop symptoms as well as while ill.
Symptoms of measles include: fever (usually 101 F or higher), cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis. The rash usually follows these symptoms, beginning from head downward. Anyone with these symptoms and recent travel to Disneyland or Penrose Hospital should call their doctor or Public Health (641-0209). Do not go directly to the office, but call to notify the healthcare provider of your situation to avoid potential exposure to others.
There is no specific treatment for measles. The best approach is prevention through immunization. Two doses of measles containing vaccines is 99% effective in preventing the disease. The MMR vaccine is given at 12 months of age and again at school entry. If someone is missing one or two doses, it is never too late to get them. The MMR vaccine is available at Public Health by appointment (641-0209) for children and adults. If a case of measles were to occur in Gunnison County, documentation of MMR vaccination would be required. If you are not sure of your child’s vaccine status, please call Public Health. If a case of measles were to occur in a school or preschool setting, persons who have been exempted from measles vaccination for medical, religious or personal reasons will be excluded from the affected facility until 21 days after the onset of rash in the last case of measles. Potentially this could be up to three months for the disease to cycle out of the school. The Certificate of Immunization that parents may sign for personal exemption states “In the event of an outbreak, exempted persons may be subject to exclusion from school and to quarantine.” While this has always been a requirement, many parents are unaware of the potential impact that could occur on school attendance.
If you traveled to Disneyland Dec 15 – 20, 2014 or Penrose Hospital Colorado Springs on Jan. 3, 2015 please call Public Health. If you are unsure of your MMR immunization status or need one, please call Public Health 641-0209. For more information on measles please call CO-HELP at 877-462-2911.