Health Official Says Measles Outbreak Came from Overseas

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Many have speculated, but now a top federal health official is confirming that the outbreak of measles traced to several Disney theme parks was likely caused by a foreign visitor or an American who had recently returned from a trip outside the country.

For weeks authorities have been tracing cases of measles that have turned up in several western states. The one common factor in most cases was that sufferers attended one of several Disney theme parks in California or were close to someone who did.

Some had speculated that the measles had come from an illegal immigrant or foreign visitor and now a health official is confirming the likelihood of that speculation.

“We don’t know exactly how this outbreak started but we do think it was likely a person infected with measles overseas,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.

“We assume that someone got infected with measles overseas, visited Disneyland park, and spread the disease to others,” Schuchat added.

The doctor noted that many countries still suffer widespread outbreaks of measles. France, for instance, had 15,000 cases in 2011. But the disease was once thought eradicated in the USA.

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control had thought that measles were eliminated in the US, but starting in 2008, cases began to climb. In 2014, the number of cases exploded to over 600, more than all reported cases between 2009 and 2013. The CDC also reported that cases reached a 20-year high in 2014.

The CDC determined that the number of cases grew in the US due to an influx of foreign immigrants.

There is no treatment for measles once it is contracted. Patients should stay hydrated as they ride the illness out. Authorities say the only prevention is widespread vaccination.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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