Two additional cases of measles were confirmed in Arizona on Tuesday, and public officials have warned that hundreds more people in the state may have been at risk of being 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 a trip to Disneyland in California.
The outbreak of measles has reached a “critical point” according to Will Humble, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. The outbreak has the potential to be even worse than the state’s last measles outbreak in 2008, he said.
“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-based woman recently diagnosed with measles may have exposed as many as 195 children to the disease while at the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center on January 20 and 21st.
Maricopa County officials were in the process of contacting the children’s families Tuesday, USA Today reported. A hospital official told 12 News that the woman was not an employee and it is not known why she was at the facility.
Humble said that while officials have a list of people who were at the hospital, the problem is not knowing whether those exposed have had contact with others 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 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 vaccines to stay home from school or day care for a 21-day incubation period to see if they develop the illness. Officials also said adults who were born after 1957, have not had measles or have only had one MMR vaccine should follow the same 21-day guidelines, staying home from work or public places.
The recent outbreak is thought to have originated at Disneyland before Christmas. The California Department of Public Health reported last week the state has had 59 confirmed cases, 42 linked to Disneyland or California Adventure in Anaheim. The outbreak has spread to other states such as Washington, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Arizona.