LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Disneyland sought on Thursday to reassure visitors that the theme park was safe amid a measles outbreak that began there in late December and prompted state health officials to urge parents not to bring their unvaccinated children.
The California Department of Public Health has linked 59 confirmed cases of measles to the outbreak believed to have begun when an infected person visited Disneyland, likely from out of the country, between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20.
Among those infected are at least five Disney employees and a student at Huntington Beach High School, some 15 miles away from the park, which earlier this week ordered its unvaccinated students to stay home until Jan. 29.On Wednesday Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the state health department, told reporters that anyone who had been immunized for measles should not have a concern about visiting the theme park.
"But if you are unvaccinated, I would worry about it," Chavez said. "And if you have a minor that cannot be vaccinated – under the age of 12 months, I would recommend that those children are not taken to places like Disneyland today."
Asked about Chavez' remarks, Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said on Thursday that the measles outbreak was a broad community issue that had grown beyond the resort in Anaheim.
"We agree with what Dr Chavez said that it is absolutely safe to visit Disneyland if you have been immunized," Brown said. Attendance at the park has not been affected by the outbreak, she said.
Dr Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and resorts, has said that Disney was offering its cast members vaccinations and measles tests.
"Realistically, when you think about Disneyland, you'll have 30,000 to 40,000 people visiting on any given day. It's like a small city. And just like a small city it has to deal with this kind of thing," said Jim Hill, writer of a popular blog about the company.
Measles typically begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by red rash that often starts on the face and spreads downward. The sometimes deadly viral disease can spread very swiftly among unvaccinated children.
There is no specific treatment for measles and most people recover within a few weeks. But in poor and malnourished children and people with reduced immunity, measles can cause serious complications including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infection and pneumonia.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Grant McCool