There’s been a lot of chatter on social media in recent weeks about the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland. As of today, there have been over 100 separate cases of measles reported that can be traced back to the southern California amusement park in January.
Though officials do not have a “patient zero” to which they can trace back all cases, it’s generally believed that an unvaccinated someone who traveled abroad brought measles to Disney. So why all of the hub bub? Well, there’s a few reasons, really. Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world – more than smallpox or the flu, for example. An exposed person with no immunity has a 90% likelihood of contracting the virus. The incubation period for measles is 21 days – which is plenty of time to spread the virus far and wide before detected. All of this wouldn’t be cause for alarm if it wasn’t so dangerous for small kids. Patients with measles often develop pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling) of the brain, which can both be fatal.
So why is measles a problem now? Though measles had been eradicated in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, most of the rest of the world still deals with measles as a problem. The recent anti-vaccination movement by some parents has caused a small percentage of children to once again be susceptible. Here’s what you need to know for your family’s traveling health:
1. If you and your kids have been vaccinated for measles (via the MMRV – Measles, Mumps, Rubella Varicella vaccine), you should feel free to visit the Happiest Place on Earth without fear of contracting measles.
2. If you have small children and are on a normal course of vaccinations, they will have received the MMRV vaccinations in two doses: once between the ages of 12 to 15 months and the second between the ages of 4 and 6 years. For more information The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a comprehensive and easy to navigate fact sheet as well as up-to-date information about the outbreak.
3. An outbreak is not an epidemic and if you know you been vaccinated against measles, you really have nothing to worry about.
4. However, if you have very small children and you travel internationally, your tikes should get vaccinated before taking them abroad. For additional information on this special category of traveler, see the CDC’s page here.
5. If you or your children have not been vaccinated against measles you should not visit the parks until the CDC gives the go-ahead for unvaccinated folks to do so. Unfortunately, it looks like this might be quite some time. If you have unvaccinated children, it just isn’t worth the risk.
So the long and the short of it is that most people are not at risk for measles. Before traveling internationally with your infants and small children, it is always a good idea to let your pediatrician know you’re planning a trip and get their counsel on the proper immunizations. The world is an ever-shrinking place, and it’s easy to wake up on one continent and find yourself falling asleep in another on the same day. If you have a family, take proper precautions to safeguard them against infectious disease.