After 42 days in which no new cases were diagnosed, California health officials declared the state’s measles outbreak had ended.
According to Time, the state’s Department of Public Health made the announcement Friday, April 17, signaling the end of a months-long outbreak that infected 131 Californians and sparked nationwide debate over the ethics and safety of vaccinations.
Health officials indicated they believe the outbreak began at Disneyland in December, when a tourist brought the virus to the Anaheim theme park. Eventually, 42 people at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure were infected; the disease then spread to students, teachers, employees at urgent care facilities, and other California residents.
“There was obvious worry that Measles could come to Colorado even though we knew the likelihood of it coming into our neck of the woods was small,” said Alison Hare, practice administrator for Doctors Express Urgent Care in Englewood, Colorado. “However, we did take extra precautions to be safe like educating patients on what to do if they think they have possibly been exposed as well as reviewing with parents the importance of vaccinating their children if they hadn’t already done so.”
Time reported that individuals aged six weeks to 70 years were infected during the outbreak, and 19% of those diagnosed were hospitalized.
“Mostly our goal as a center was to be prepared if a potential case happened to walk through our door and as always provide the most current and up-to-date educational information to our patients on the topic,” said Hare.
While no deaths resulting from measles were reported during the outbreak, Gil Chavez, California’s state epidemiologist, said at least 56 of the people who contracted measles weren’t vaccinated. He stressed the importance of vaccinating oneself and one’s children against the highly contagious infection “to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones and to protect the community at large.”
Measles is particularly dangerous for children under five years old. The World Health Organization reports that most of the 145,700 people who died from measles in 2013 were children within this age group, despite the existence of a safe, effective vaccine.
“We are absolutely confident that if we had higher levels of immunity in the community this outbreak would not have happened,” Chavez said during a conference call with the press. “Having this measles outbreak behind us is a significant accomplishment — measles can be very serious with devastating consequences.”