The Worst Possible Souvenir from Disneyland

There's hardly any place more magical than the Disney Parks at Christmastime. However, this holiday season a handful of guests at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, got a souvenir they didn't bargain for: measles.

Nine people with confirmed cases of measles were at Disneyland or the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park in Orange County between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, according to the California Department of Public Health. Three more people with suspected measles also visited Disney during that time.

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Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said, "We are working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can."

If you're thinking, "I thought measles was practically eradicated with those shots we had to get as children," think again. The anti-vaccination subculture deserves the blame for this outbreak.

Measles was once a nearly universal disease of childhood. Thanks to vaccines, however, it was declared eradicated in the USA in 2000. Since then, the country has seen 60 to 70 cases a year, usually people who were infected in other countries and diagnosed here.

The disease has returned in recent years, as more parents skip or space out their children's vaccines because of misguided concerns about vaccine safety, [Paul] Offit [chief of infectious disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia] says. Dozens of studies have found vaccines to be safe, with no link to autism or other serious conditions.

Still, fears stoked by misinformation from celebrities and the Internet have done a lot of damage, Offit says.

The majority of these cases involve people who were never vaccinated, including two babies too young for the shot, but in one case, the patient had received all vaccinations.

Health officials have expressed concern over this particular outbreak, especially since it centers around a popular tourist destination.

The Disneyland outbreak is disturbing, Offit says, because it affects people who are likely to get on planes, where measles can spread easily. Two of the confirmed cases linked to Disneyland were Utah residents.

Disneyland is safe as of now, but for those nine guests, this Christmas trip was more than they bargained for.

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Image via Shutterstock / Hatchapong Palurtchaivong