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Measles, Disney, and What It Means for Your Vacation

You know something is up when you see “measles” trending on Twitter (a topic that hasn’t been on social media since, I don’t know, 1963).

Here’s the short version: In January, a measles outbreak occurred at Disneyland in California. As of February 3, there were 102 confirmed infections in 14 states, all of which could be traced back to the Disney outbreak. Public health officials did not identify a patient zero but say it was likely a tourist who went abroad to a country that does not vaccinate and returned, thereby infecting parkgoers.

Outbreaks of various illnesses occur all the time. What makes this case different is that measles was essentially eliminated in the U.S. 15 years ago—and many of us have forgotten to even worry about contracting it. An outbreak is far from an epidemic, despite the frantic emails you may have received. But measles is a seriously contagious disease that can be fatal to vulnerable populations.

There is plenty of misinformation out there regarding safe travel and vaccination. Here is what you need to know:

  • If you received your measles vaccine (commonly called MMR, for measles, mumps, and rubella) and are in good health, you’re likely fine and can go to Disney, no problem.
  • If you haven’t been vaccinated, health officials urge that you do not visit the park. (Disneyland spokespeople agreed.) Additionally, pregnant women, infants under six months, and those with weakened immune systems are urged to avoid Disneyland.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that all people who are traveling abroad should receive the MMR vaccine prior to departure; see the CDC’s health advisory for more info.
  • Frequent travelers should always check which vaccinations are required or recommended before traveling to a foreign country; see our 11 Things Not to Leave Until the Last Minute to find out where to get that information.
  • These are the recommended immunizations for all Americans.

It’s important to note that, as this universe becomes ever smaller and we all travel it more, every human we come into contact with on our travels is potentially vulnerable to the illnesses we pick up along the way (and vice versa). That’s why it’s key to stay healthy as we go.

Here are some good articles about doing just that:

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