Joshua Berlinger and Sonya Hamasaki
(CNN – Jan. 21, 2015) — The happiest place on Earth just got a bit sadder for some of its employees.
A spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency has confirmed that “several” Disneyland employees have been diagnosed with measles.
The announcement comes after public health officials in California and Utah confirmed earlier this month nine cases, all of them visitors of either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim between December 15 and December 20.
One school in Huntington Beach has barred children who could not prove that they were vaccinated for measles from going to school until January 29 , according to the county health agency.
It’s not clear how many of the theme park employees were vaccinated.
So far, five children and 13 adults have been diagnosed in Orange County, according to the county health care agency. Before Tuesday’s announcement, the California Department of Public Health said on its website that 36 measles cases had an epidemiologic link to the Disney outbreak, 41 total in the state.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus and spread through the air. It was considered eradicated in the United States in 2000, though 2014 saw a record-breaking number of confirmed cases: 644 from 27 states according to the CDC. That’s “the highest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000,” the CDC says on its website.
“Travelers to areas where measles is endemic can bring measles back to the U.S., resulting in limited domestic transmission of measles,” read a statement from the California Department of Public Health. “Disney and other theme parks in California are international attractions and visitors come from many parts of the world, including those where measles is endemic.”
Dr. Pamela Hymel, Disney’s chief medical officer, issued a brief statement: “We are working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can.”
As for symptoms, “measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat,” according to the CDC.
Those showing such symptoms shouldn’t be bashful about seeing their doctor, because a full body rash is likely to break out next. “If you have symptoms, and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, California’s state health office.
Chapman says prevention is the key: “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.”