Health officials in three Arizona counties stated hundreds of people may have been exposed to the highly contagious measles virus, three days before thousands of sports fans pour into the state for the Super Bowl.
The National Football League championship game will be held in Maricopa County at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on Feb. 1. Officials there, and in Pinal and Gila counties, are searching for people who have been to hospitals, grocery stores and a post office where infected residents visited.
“Measles is wildly infectious, which is why it is so important that we identify cases quickly and do our best to stop the spread early on,” Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “That means keeping unvaccinated people who have been exposed to the disease away from others.”
Arizona has reported seven cases thus far in its first outbreak since 2008, two in Maricopa County and five in Pinal County, one of which was found in Gila County. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to humans, with each original patient able to infect many others if they aren’t vaccinated. The spread of the California outbreak has been made worse, in part, by a growing failure to vaccinate, health officials have recently said. Maricopa health workers are trying to track down 195 people, mostly children.
The virus can linger in the air or on surfaces for hours, and health officials are contacting those that have been exposed. Maricopa’s county health department said people who have been exposed and aren’t fully vaccinated should stay at home for 21 days. If they need to go out in public they should wear some kind of mask, the department said in a Jan. 27 statement.
This isn’t the measles’ first Super Bowl. In 2012 in Indiana, a boy with measles went to the “Super Bowl village,” a pre-game convention, a few days before the event.
“Our concern was it would be transmitted to the crowd at the Super Bowl,” said Gregory Larkin, the former Indiana state health commissioner.
The only others infected were family members or friends of the boy.
The NFL is confident most players have been vaccinated and are low risk, said Clare Graff, a league spokeswoman, and medical staffs have been told to be vigilant.
The league prepares for diseases like the flu each year, including posting hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the stadium and at other event venues.
The University of Arizona will have a group of students from the epidemiology program at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health assisting first responders at the Super Bowl watch for any potential measles cases.
“We know measles, we know that it can get out of hand,” Kristen Pogreba-Brown, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the college, said in an interview.
Pogreba-Brown leads an epidemiology course that will have a student at each of the stadium’s six first aid stations. The students will question people that visit the stations to check for fever, rash and travel history. They’ll also check for signs of other diseases, such as gastrointestinal symptoms that could signal norovirus, America’s leading cause of infection from contaminated food.
The Arizona measles cases are among 84 identified this year in 14 states, 67 of which are connected to Anaheim’s Disneyland amusement park, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Arizona allows vaccination exemptions for children entering public schools for religious reasons as well as what’s known as a philosophical exemption, where parents can choose not to vaccinate their children and still send them to school.
“These outbreaks the past couple years have been much harder to control when the virus reaches communities where the masses have not been vaccinated,” Schuchat said.
While most states allow religious exemptions from vaccine requirements, 19 states also have so-called philosophical exemptions, including Arizona and California, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Author: Blaine Pollock
Philanthropist and Businessman, Blaine Pollock is the creative force behind World News MD/Depression.net. Blaine is also the author of the newly released Children’s Book “O My Walter”. Find the magical book, “O My Walter” at www.omywalter.com