Arizona measles outbreak reaches ‘critical point’

Two more cases of measles were confirmed in Arizona on Tuesday, and public health officials have warned that hundreds more people in the state may have been exposed this month.

Both of the cases confirmed Tuesday — a man in Pinal County and a woman in Phoenix — were linked to a family of four whose measles cases were confirmed last week following travel to Disneyland in California.

The outbreak of measles has reached “a critical point,” according to Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. The outbreak has the potential to be far worse than the state’s last measles outbreak in 2008, he said.

Humble said the number of cases will “absolutely” continue to grow.

“I am certain we will have more just based on the sheer number of people exposed this time,” he said.

Health officials believe the Phoenix-area woman recently diagnosed with measles may have exposed as many as 195 children to the disease at the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center on Jan. 20 and 21.

Maricopa County officials were in the process of contacting the children’s families Tuesday. A hospital official told 12 News that the woman was not an employee and it was not known why she was at the facility.

Humble said that although officials have a list of people who were at the hospital, the problem is not knowing whether those exposed to the measles have had contact with other people in large gatherings or traveled outside their county.

“You spread it (the measles) before you feel bad,” he said, adding that symptoms usually appear about a week after exposure.

The confirmed case also prompted Maricopa County health officials to recommend that all exposed children who have not had at least one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to stay home from school or day care for the 21-day incubation period. Officials also said exposed adults who were born after 1957, have not had measles or have had only one MMR vaccine, should not go to work or public places for the same 21-day period.

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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily