Disney Says Park Attendance Is Unaffected by Measles Outbreak

Walt Disney Co. said attendance at its Southern California theme parks has been unaffected by a measles outbreak, a day after a state health official told unvaccinated people to stay away.

The California Department of Public Health said there have been 59 cases of measles since late December, with 42 linked to exposure at the Anaheim resort, including one on Jan. 18. Five Disney employees were among those who got sick. The company has been testing and inoculating workers.

“Cast members who may have come in contact with those who were positive are being tested for the virus,” Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement. “While awaiting results, they have been put on paid leave until medically cleared.”

The world’s largest theme-park operator began taking the steps after officials in Orange County notified the company of the cases on Jan. 7, Hymel said. State officials stressed the importance of vaccinations, particularly given region’s lure as a destination for U.S. and international tourists.

Disney officials pointed to comments from Gil Chavez, a deputy director at the state Department of Public Health, who said it’s safe for vaccinated people to visit the parks.

“I think it’s safe to go if you are vaccinated,” Chavez said on Wednesday. “But if you are unvaccinated I would worry about it. If you have a minor who cannot be vaccinated, a child under 12 months of age, I would recommend that those children, infants, are not taken to places like this.”

Local school districts are also being advised to bolster efforts to get children inoculated with the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

Education Officials

The Orange County Department of Education sent a letter on Jan. 14 to the county’s 27 school districts, asking them to warn parents that their children should be vaccinated and that unvaccinated students could be asked to stay home. That was the case at Huntington Beach High School where 20 unvaccinated students are not being allowed on campus for three weeks after a possible exposure.

The nation’s cruise lines stepped up their passenger screening programs, such as pre-boarding questionnaires, last year after the Ebola outbreak.

“Cruise lines continue their health screenings prior to embarkation as they have done for many years,” said Mike McGarry, a spokesman for the Cruise Line International Association, a Washington-based industry association. “As health issues arise on land, this health screening is re-evaluated and modified as appropriate,”

The cases linked to Disney represent a fraction of the millions of tourists who visit the company’s parks each year. Disneyland attracted 16.2 million visitors in 2013, while the adjacent California Adventure drew 8.51 million, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.

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