LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Six more cases of measles have been confirmed in California following an outbreak at Disneyland that began last month, public health officials said on Monday, raising to 74 the total number of people in the state who have been infected.
Previously, 68 people in California had been confirmed to have the measles, along with 14 others elsewhere: five in Arizona, three in Utah, two in Washington state, one each in Oregon, Colorado and Nevada, and one in Mexico.
The latest tally includes 73 cases documented by the California Department of Public Health and one additional patient reported by the Ventura County Health Care Agency.
Most, but not all, of the 88 known cases of measles in California and out of state have been linked to an outbreak that is believed to have begun when an infected person, likely from out of the country, visited the Disneyland resort in Anaheim between Dec 15 and Dec 20.
Among those infected are at least five Disney employees and a student from a local high school that has ordered its unvaccinated students to stay home until Thursday.
Four patients are less than a year old and 11 others are between the ages of one and four.
The outbreak has renewed debate over the so-called anti-vaccination movement in which fears about potential side effects of vaccines, fuelled by now-debunked theories suggesting a link to autism, have led a small minority of parents to refuse to allow their children to be inoculated.
The California health department has said that unvaccinated individuals have been a factor in the outbreak, although some of the infected patients had been inoculated.
The Los Angeles Times blasted the anti-vaccination movement in an editorial last week for what it called an "ignorant and self-absorbed rejection of science".
Homegrown measles, whose symptoms include rash and fever, was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. But health officials say cases imported by travellers from overseas continue to infect unvaccinated US residents.
The sometimes deadly virus, which is airborne, can spread 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 diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia.