Did Las Vegas Valley measles start at Disneyland?

Exactly how nine Southern Nevadans caught measles this year may never be known, but the outbreak linked to Disneyland remains a suspect.

Genetic testing was unable to definitively pinpoint the source, said Dr. Joe Iser, chief medical officer for the Southern Nevada Health District. But some of the patients infected with measles here had a strain that was genetically similar to the one from Disneyland.

The Las Vegas-area outbreak could have come from the Southern California theme park, Iser said Tuesday, or it could be linked to the dominant strain of the virus that has been circulating throughout the world for the past year.

All the patients in Southern Nevada have long since recovered, and the nationwide measles outbreak has abated. Researchers tied the Disneyland outbreak to low vaccination rates, and more than 150 cases of measles nationwide were linked to the theme park. The measles cases threw a spotlight on the anti-vaccination movement and led to renewed interest among Nevadans in ensuring they receive vaccines at the optimal time to be protected.

Health care professionals say the risk of the illness is far worse than the risk of being vaccinated. Fears about potential side effects of vaccinations, based on refuted research suggesting a connection to autism, lead some parents to opt against inoculating their children.

In Nevada, state law requires students to be vaccinated unless they have filed an exemption for religious beliefs or medical reasons. Every state Nevada borders has a personal beliefs exemption allowing parents to keep their children unvaccinated.

“We’re lucky here in Nevada, but being on the border of those states requires us to be vigilant about our vaccination rates and making sure we’re up to date,” said Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada, a statewide nonprofit coalition promoting vaccinations.

On Saturday, parents have an opportunity to have the immunization status of their children checked at the Passport to Immunizations and Health Fair at the Southern Nevada Health District, 330 S. Valley View Blvd. in Las Vegas.

While Saturday’s event is designed for preschoolers, all children will be served, said JoAnn Rupiper, the health district’s community health nurse manager.

“We focus on the younger children, but if a parent brings in an older child, we’ll make sure they’re up to date on their vaccinations, too,” she said.

Nevada ranked 49th for vaccine coverage of kids between 19 and 35 months old in the 2013 National Immunization Survey, put together by U.S. public health officials.

People seeking vaccinations at the health district this year increased over the same period in 2014, Rupiper said. In February and March, about 1,450 inoculations were administered compared to about 960 the year earlier.

Contact Steven Moore at smoore@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563.

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