Super Bowl 2015: Officials on Alert for Measles During Big Game

At least 84 people have been infected with the measles in the current outbreak.

ByABC News
January 30, 2015, 10:27 AM

— -- Arizona health officials are attempting to contain a measles outbreak that has already spread through multiple states as thousands of fans arrive in Phoenix ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl.

Officials are already monitoring 1,000 people in Arizona who were exposed to the contagious virus after seven people were found to be infected in the state.

“This is a critical point in this outbreak,” said Arizona Department of Health Services’ Director Will Humble. “If the public health system and medical community are able to identify every single susceptible case and get them into isolation, we have a chance of stopping this outbreak here."

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses in existence and will infect an estimated 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus. The incubation period is on average 14 days, but an infected person can be contagious up to four days before they start to show symptoms.

With scores of fans expected to head to Phoenix this weekend to watch the game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, health officials have delivered stern warnings to try and keep the disease from spreading in the state.

Anyone not vaccinated for measles is asked to stay out of public areas for 21 days. In Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the health department is asking unvaccinated children to stay home from school or day care for another three weeks in order to protect them from potential infection.

“If we miss any potential cases and some of them go to a congregate setting with numerous susceptible contacts, we could be in for a long and protracted outbreak,” said Humble on the health department website.

The current measles outbreak has infected at least 84 people in 14 states after originating in the Disneyland theme park, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

While immune globulin can be given to help mitigate symptoms, there is no way for health officials to stop those exposed from developing the disease. Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose and the tell-tale red rash, according to the CDC. In severe cases it can cause pneumonia, encephalitis or swelling of the brain and death.

This week, the health department detailed their health and public safety plans for the Super Bowl.

In addition to monitoring for dangerous pathogens and suspicious substances, the department will conduct “illness monitoring at urgent care centers, and monitoring poison control center calls related to Super Bowl events.”

The department said the enhanced surveillance will them to more quickly “identify health threats” and respond immediately.