The latest measles outbreak in California is rapidly spreading, with 51 cases now confirmed by officials – which is almost double the amount reported only from last Tuesday.
Health officials are warning that more people are likely to fall ill in the weeks ahead.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Officials said there was now evidence that the measles outbreak had spread beyond people who visited Disneyland between Dec. 17 and 20 and begun infecting people in the broader community.
It is the beginning of a scenario experts have feared. Health officials generally hope a measles outbreak can be contained within a manageable group of people and eventually extinguished by keeping the ill at home or in a hospital room until they recover, with the outbreak eventually being stopped by the broader community of vaccinated people.
But thanks to the declining number of parents vaccinating their kindergarteners since 2002, that’s a tough task.
The outbreak’s hardest-hit is in Disneyland’s home, Orange County. Officials reported this Friday that 6 more cases have emerged among people who didn’t visit Disneyland before Christmas, signifying that virus is spreading beyond that flashpoint.
Orange County health officials said in a statement that “the identification of six measles cases with acquisition from unknown community contacts indicates exposure to measles is more widespread throughout the county.”
“The Health Care Agency expects that the measles outbreak will continue to spread,” they added.
The Orange County health officer, Eric Handler, warned that students not vaccinated for measles may be excluded from attending school or day-care to prevent further spread of disease. A person who may have been contagious with measles was at Huntington Beach High School on Jan. 7-8.
There are now 16 confirmed cases in Orange County. San Diego County has 10 and Los Angeles County has eight, followed by Alameda County with four, Ventura with three, and Riverside and San Bernardino, both with two, for a total of 45 measles cases in California.
Officials noted that many of those who fell ill were not vaccinated. In San Diego County alone, 9 of the 10 infected were did not have measles vaccinations.
Progress against diseases like measles and whooping cough is threatened by a growing anti-vaccination movement in the United States, based on a widely debunked fear that the measles vaccine can trigger autism.
“The greatest threat to the U.S. vaccination program may now come from parents’ hesitancy to vaccinate their children. Although this so-called vaccine hesitancy has not become as widespread in the United States as it appears to have become in Europe, it is increasing,” Dr. Mark Grabowsky, a health official with the United Nations, wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics last year. “Many measles outbreaks can be traced to people refusing to be vaccinated; a recent large measles outbreak was attributable to a church advocating the refusal of measles vaccination.”
DeadState wrote a piece in September pointing out that anti-vax beliefs are most prominent in wealthy coastal communities in Southern California.