In just a short period of time since the first case of measles linked to Disneyland in California has been confirmed by public health officials, the number of individuals infected by the infectious disease has already increased to at least 182 cases in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
Although the exact source of the outbreak is yet to be determined, investigations made by federal health officials suggest that the outbreak may have links with the Philippines.
In a report, researchers from the California Department of Public Health said that specimens from 30 measles patients in California had been genotyped and this revealed that the virus strain is the same as the one responsible for a recent outbreak that occurred in the Philippines. Melissa Stockwell, from the Columbia University Medical Center explained that the findings revealed the fingerprint of the virus.
"Specimens from 30 California patients were genotyped; all were measles genotype B3, which has caused a large outbreak recently in the Philippines, but has also been detected in at least 14 countries and at least six U.S. states in the last 6 months," the report published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on Feb. 13 reads.
Experts said that the findings suggest that it is likely that the virus has its origins in the Philippines albeit they still do not know how the virus exactly got into the U.S. Measles is very infectious and can spread through sneeze or cough.
Experts said that the virus, which can thrive on surfaces for two hours, can easily spread on crowded places. Disneyland in Anaheim, Southern California has thousands of tourists and visitors coming from all around the world and thus fit right into this description.
Two other measles outbreak that occurred last year also had a Philippine connection. The outbreak that spread through Ohio started after missionaries were infected by the virus while they were volunteering in the Philippines, where measles is particularly prevalent.
Public health officials have been urging people to get vaccinated particularly when travelling internationally. Some parents, however, are cautious about getting their children vaccinated over fears that vaccines have unwanted side effects.
The current outbreak gained public attention after the California Department of Health received reports about an unvaccinated 11 year-old child who was hospitalized with symptoms associated with measles. The child has recently visited Disneyland in California and developed a rash before the New Year.