A measles outbreak has been linked to Disneyland, California. There are now 9 confirmed cases, 7 in California and 2 in Utah, and all visited Disneyland or the California Adventure Park between December 15 and December 20, 2014. Only one of those infected was full vaccinated (two were too young to be vaccinated).
The health risks of measles aside (pneumonia, ear infections, and miscarriage and stillbirth for pregnant women) and the cost of the direct medical care, each case of measles must be meticulously evaluated requiring a lot of paper work and person-power by public health officials. Because measles is so infectious a lot of people have to be contacted and then all these contacts need to be interviewed and evaluated. Vaccine records have to be reviewed, many will need blood tests to see if they are immune or not, some will need to be quarantined, and many will also need post-exposure prophylaxis. If someone with measles was on an airplane, or went to school, or a hospital while infectious they could have exposed hundreds of people. And of course if they were at Disney they could have exposed tens of thousands.
So how much does all this cost? Well, in 2011 a measles outbreak in Utah of 9 cases (just like the current count from Disney) cost the department of public health about $300,000 (roughly $33,000 per case). The amount of work that went into containing that outbreak was staggering and involved tracing 12,000 contacts, tracking down 5,521 immunization records, blood work on about 100 people, 396 doses of post-exposure prophylaxis, and 184 people were quarantined. The costs don’t include missed work for the people quarantined.
Even before this most recent measles outbreak 2014 was on track to be a banner year (a bad thing) for measles in the United States with 610 cases reported in the first 11 months. Adding the 9 additional cases that we know about from December this takes the costs of tracing contacts and preventing further infections to well over $20 million for 2014. That’s a lot of money to spend on a disease that was once eradicated in the United States.
Over to you Dr. Bob Sears and Ms. Jenny McCarthy….