School near Disneyland warns parents that student has measles

Balloons of Mickey Mouse are carried down main street at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (Reuters)

By Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Southern California school said on Tuesday it had told students who have not been vaccinated for measles to stay home for two weeks after learning that one of their classmates was infected in an outbreak traced to Disneyland in late December. Huntington Beach High School, about 15 miles away from Disneyland in Anaheim, California, said that the step had been taken at the direction of the Orange County Health Care Agency following confirmation of measles in a student there. The high school, which serves nearly 3,000 students in the beachside community, had last week sent a letter to parents warning that the student was infected and urging them to contact a doctor if their child developed symptoms. School officials said that individuals believed to have been exposed to the infected student had been contacted directly. "However, measles spreads very easily by air and by direct contact," Matt Zahn, the agency's medical director, said in a letter dated Jan. 14. "Simply being in the same room with someone who has measles is sufficient to become infected." The school did not specify in a written statement how many unvaccinated students had been asked to stay home, but said classes were continuing on a normal schedule. California health officials earlier this month linked an outbreak of measles to Disneyland, saying anyone who visited the amusement park in Anaheim between Dec. 15 and 20 may have been exposed. The total number of confirmed cases linked to the outbreak has risen to 51 and three suspected cases are being investigated in San Diego County. Measles typically begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by the appearance of a red rash that typically starts on the face and spreads downward. The sometimes deadly viral disease can spread very swiftly among unvaccinated children. There is no specific treatment for measles and most people recover within a few weeks. But in poor and malnourished children and people with reduced immunity, measles can cause serious complications including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infection and pneumonia. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Walsh)