As Super Bowl Approaches, Arizona Grapples with Measles Outbreak

JANUARY 30, 2015
Eileen Oldfield, Associate Editor
Measles cases in Arizona and elsewhere could soar as football fans pour into the state for the Super Bowl.
 
Prior to Sunday’s showdown, the state’s public health officials were tracking 1000 potential measles exposures and 7 confirmed infections. The Arizona Health Department linked 4 of the 7 cases to the outbreak at Disneyland, according to a January 28, 2015, blog post from health department director Will Humble .
 
According to Amesh Adalja, MD, FACP, an infectious disease specialist and spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 90% of unvaccinated individuals exposed to measles will contract the infection.
 
“Any time there are large gatherings of people in the middle of an outbreak, it’s always going to be a concern that the infection will find a way to spread,” Dr. Adalja said in an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Times. “The Super Bowl could be the same scenario if there is a critical mass of unvaccinated individuals in an area.”
 
The most recent outbreak follows a record year for measles cases, with 644 infections in 27 states, the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases stated. It is the greatest number of recorded measles cases since the United States declared that measles was eliminated in 2000.
 
The propensity for unvaccinated individuals to cluster in specific areas could mean 2015 also sees a high number of measles infections, simply because the disease can spread so quickly, Dr. Adalja said. 
 
“We can expect this year to be very bad for measles cases because of these pockets of unvaccinated people,” Dr. Adalja said. “It is really ideal for spreading the disease around the country. People should not hesitate to become vaccinated because it really is the only means we have for protection.”
 
Educating patients about vaccination and about the disease is the most important preventive strategy, Dr. Adalja told Pharmacy Times. With many patients growing up in an era that did not experience measles, lack of knowledge about the disease’s severity is common.
 
“Pharmacists can work to advocate for vaccination, and educate the public about the effectiveness of vaccines, and remind people about what measles is like,” Dr. Adalja said. “It isn’t some benign illness where people get a cold and a rash. People can have complications and go to the hospital. The reason it is not a scourge in the United States is because of vaccinations.”


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