Feb 14, 2024 - News

Arizona reports first measles case since 2022

Data: Arizona Department of Health Services; Chart: Axios Visuals

Maricopa County confirmed an international visitor with measles may have exposed people to the highly contagious respiratory illness at two Valley locations late last month.

Why it matters: About 1 in 5 unvaccinated Americans who gets measles is hospitalized, and the condition is especially dangerous for children and pregnant women.

  • About 90% of unvaccinated people exposed to measles will become infected, per the county's public health department.

Driving the news: Maricopa County Public Health cautions that people may have been exposed to measles on Jan. 27 at the following locations:

  • The breakfast buffet at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Chandler between 7am and noon.
  • Twin Peaks near 22nd Street and Camelback Road between 2 and 5pm.

Be smart: It can take up to three weeks from exposure to develop symptoms, which include fever, cough, rash and white spots in the throat.

  • The measles virus can survive in the air and on surfaces for two hours, meaning it can be transmitted even after the infected person leaves the room.

What they're saying: "If you are immunized, there's a very low chance [you'll contract measles]. On the other hand, if you're exposed and you're not immunized, there's a very high chance," Maricopa County assistant medical director Nick Staab tells Axios Phoenix.

Zoom out: The World Health Organization recently warned about global outbreaks of measles tied to falling vaccination rates.

  • The CDC late last month issued an alert about cases popping up in the U.S., mostly among kids and teens who weren't immunized.
  • That's why Staab said he's still urging vaccinations, even though the county has not yet determined any additional cases connected to last month's case.

Threat level: Arizona's rate of kindergartners with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was about 90% last school year, below the national average.

  • The Arizona Department of Health Services aims for 95% or higher to achieve herd immunity.

The intrigue: Vaccine expert Paul Offit told Axios' Tina Reed that the return of measles is a "canary in the coal mine" for the country's ability to fight the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

  • He blames vaccine misinformation and politicization that exploded during the pandemic for falling immunization rates.

Zoom in: Arizona law lets parents opt out of childhood immunizations required for school if they complete a form acknowledging the increased risk of disease.

Flashback: Arizona reported three measles cases in 2022 and one in 2019, but the last significant outbreak was in 2016, infecting 22 detainees and nine staffers at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Eloy.

  • It was the state's largest outbreak since 1991.
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