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Disneyland Measles Outbreak Casts Shadow on Anti-Vaccination Movement

Common disease kills more people each day than Ebola, expert says

This past December, the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, was the epicenter of a measles outbreak that has since reached at least 51 people in four states and one in Mexico, according to an article posted on the BioSpace website.

While the devastation of those affected, including two infants too young for immunizations, casts a shadow on the anti-vaccination movement, it also shines light on more economical ways to get people, particularly in developing countries, protected, the article says.

Between December 15 and December 20, 2014, an unvaccinated California woman in her 20s apparently visited Disneyland or the adjacent California Adventure Park while she unknowingly had measles. Since then, there have been 45 cases in California, three in Utah, two in Washington, one in Colorado, and one in Mexico (of a 22-month-old girl).

All of the cases involved people who visited Disneyland or were infected by people who traveled to Disneyland during that timeframe in December. Health officials said the outbreak has become the worst in California in 15 years, partly because it occurred at a major travel destination that draws people from all over the world.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 644 cases of measles were reported in 27 states last year, the highest number since 2000.

The severity of measles depends on how highly contagious the virus is and how dangerous its complications are. The measles virus, spread through coughing and sneezing, can live up to 2 hours on a surface or in an air space, and if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected, according to the CDC. The complications of measles include pneumonia, brain damage, and deafness. The virus can take up to 12 days to appear.

The latest measles outbreak demonstrates the harmful consequences that stem from the rising trend of parents opting not to vaccinate their children because of fears, despite the absence of a scientific link, that the MMR vaccine (against measles, mumps, and rubella) can increase the chances of developing autism, febrile seizures, or other reactions, the article says.

Last year in California alone, parents turned in more than 13,000 “personal beliefs exemptions” notifying the state that their children would be opting out of recommended vaccines.

The MMR vaccine has been shown to be 99% effective. It is available as M-M-RII (Merck), Priorix (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals), and Trimovax (Sanofi Pasteur) and is generally administered to children around the age of 1 year, with a second dose before starting school.

Dr. Robert Sievers, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been working on a new measles vaccine in dry-powder form, which has shown promise in early clinical trials. The powder is delivered in an inhaled puff of air.

Moreover, the dry-powder vaccine doesn’t require as much refrigeration or temperature control as other vaccines, eliminates the need for needles, has a lower risk of contamination, and provides a lower cost for delivery, according to Sievers.

“It’s a startling fact that more people continue to be killed by measles than the disease of the day, which is Ebola,” Sievers remarked. “Around 500 people die each day around the world due to complications from the measles.”

Sievers said that his dry-powder vaccine targets countries such as India, where measles remains a leading cause of death among young children. Particularly in a tropical climate, a dry-powder vaccine can be safer and more economical than injectable vaccines.

“A 10-dose vial of dried powder that you add water to for injection is then stored in the refrigerator and needs to be used by the next day. Otherwise it can develop bacterial contamination, like staph,” Sievers said. “There’s also hope that the dry powder concept will be applied to vaccines for other viruses like influenza or Ebola in the future.”

Source: BioSpace; January 19, 2015.

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