LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 100 people in the United States have been confirmed as infected with measles including 91 in California, most of them linked to an outbreak that began at Disneyland in December, public health officials said on Friday.
The California Department of Public Health said at least 58 of the cases of the highly infectious disease in the state have been epidemiologically linked to the Disneyland cluster. More than a dozen other cases have been confirmed in 13 other U.S. states and in Mexico.
No deaths have been reported in connection with the outbreak, which public health officials suspect began when an infected person from outside the United States visited Disneyland in Anaheim between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20.
The White House on Friday urged parents to heed the advice of public health officials and scientists in getting their children vaccinated.
“People should evaluate this for themselves with a bias toward good science and toward the advice of our public health professionals,” President Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Asked whether people should be getting vaccinated, Earnest said: “That’s what the science indicates.”
The measles outbreak has renewed a debate over the so-called anti-vaccination movement in which fears about potential side effects of vaccines, fueled by now-debunked research suggesting a link to autism, have led a small minority of parents to refuse to allow their children to be inoculated.
Some parents also opt not to have their children vaccinated for religious or other reasons.
Earnest said Obama believes decisions about vaccinating children should rest with parents but that “the president believes that everybody should be listening to our public health professionals.” Earnest said the White House will continue to closely monitor the outbreak.
Earnest’s comments came one day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to get vaccinated for measles.
Measles was officially declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 after decades of intensive childhood vaccine efforts. But last year the nation had its highest number of measles cases in two decades.
In addition to California, since December cases of measles have been confirmed in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington state, as well as Mexico.
Most people recover within a few weeks, although it can be fatal in some cases.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Will Dunham