The Disneyland Measles Outbreak: Here’s the 411

Child measles vaccine

The Disneyland measles outbreak has parents and doctors worried now that there have been more than 100 cases documented, most of them tied to the California theme park. So what can we do to protect our kids from the measles?

Here’s everything moms need to know about the Disneyland measles outbreak and how to keep their children safe:

1. The number of measles cases in the U.S. hit 102 in 14 states and Mexico in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued a health advisory on the measles outbreak last week. Most of them can be traced back to the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim, where a visitor or visitors from another country likely had the virus — and it spread.

2. Make sure that you and your children are up-to-date on your measles vaccines, the CDC advises. That’s crucial in protecting your whole family from the illness and guarding others against getting it from you or your kids if you’re unwitting carriers.

3. The measles is a highly contagious upper respiratory virus that starts with cold- or flu-like symptoms. It is spread through the air when someone with the illness coughs, sneezes or just breathes on another person who isn’t vaccinated or otherwise immune. Measles can be tough to pinpoint, since the initial signs mimic those of other common ailments like colds and flu. But the first symptoms are typically a sore throat, runny nose, mild to moderate fever, red eyes or “pink eye” and a cough. A red or reddish-brown bumpy rash usually begins 3 to 5 days after the early signs appear, starting on the face along the hairline and spreading down until it covers the entire body. Once the rash is in full swing, the patient’s fever often shoots up as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Those affected seem mainly to be visitors to the Disney theme parks between December 15 and 20. The CDC suggests that any children and adults who have been traveling abroad or have visited one of the California Disney theme parks recently get the vaccine if they don’t already have it and be tested for measles if they’re experiencing any of the symptoms.

5. The virus can be very serious and even fatal.  Though no deaths have been reported in this latest epidemic so far, the disease can be fatal — about 1 or 2 in 1,000 children die from it. Several of those who have come down with it this time have been hospitalized. Pneumonia, encephalitis and ear infections can be complications of the measles, as can miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women.

6. Measles was said to have been eradicated in this country in 2000, but in recent years has resurfaced at sometimes alarming rates. The resurgence seems to be tied to a small but growing movement among parents who choose not to vaccinate their children — especially against illnesses like the measles that had virtually disappeared in the United States. The virus typically spreads in this country through contact with those from overseas who have it — either when they visit the U.S. or when an American travels to a region plagued by an outbreak who then passes it on to those who aren’t vaccinated here.

Are you and your family vaccinated against the measles? Do you know anyone who has had the illness?