Disneyland Visitor With Measles May Have Exposed Hundreds Of Parkgoers

by Christina Marfice
Barry King/Getty

No new measles cases have been linked to this visitor, but health officials are worried after the 2014 outbreak

During the most prominent year for measles in the U.S. since the disease was eradicated here in 2000, a person who was infectious reportedly visited Disneyland last week, potentially infecting hundreds if not thousands of people.

While no other cases have been linked to Disneyland yet, public health officials have good reason to be worried. Disneyland was at the epicenter of a major measles outbreak in 2014 — that outbreak was one of the main drivers behind California’s recent strengthening of its vaccine laws.

A place like Disneyland is a particularly frightening spot for a potential outbreak, because measles can live on surfaces for hours after a sick person comes into contact with them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if an infected person coughs or sneezes in a room, the virus can live in the air in that room for up to two hours. “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” the Center’s website says.

At Disneyland, where people go in and out of a lot of enclosed rides and touch a lot of surfaces, that’s pretty terrifying.

Officials say the infected person was a Los Angeles County resident who first visited a Starbucks, and then spent the day at the park on Oct. 16. They’re warning people who visited Starbucks at 3006 S. Sepulveda Blvd., between 7:50 a.m. and 10 a.m., and everyone who was at Disneyland between 9:15 a.m. and 8:35 p.m. that they’re at risk for developing symptoms for up to three weeks after they were exposed. They also say people should check their vaccination records and anyone who is pregnant or the parent of an infant who may have been exposed should contact their doctor.

“For those who are not protected, measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease that initially causes fever, cough, red, watery eyes and, finally, a rash,” an LA County health official said in a statement.

The 2014 outbreak that began at Disneyland was the result of unvaccinated children who visited the park spreading the illness. Over four months, that outbreak spread to more than 150 cases in seven other states, as well as Mexico and Canada. It was one of the worst measles outbreaks we’ve seen in the U.S. in decades, mostly due to falling vaccination rates in recent years.

So far in 2019, 1,250 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 31 states.