There are fears that tomorrow’s Super Bowl XLIX may very well become ground zero for another measles outbreak.
Arizona health officials are warning everyone who may have been exposed to the measles to stay away from the 2015 Super Bowl. At this time, over 1,000 people in Arizona are known to have come into contact with the measles virus, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Of the 67 confirmed measles cases linked to exposure at Disneyland, seven are in Arizona. Two of these cases are located in Maricopa County, which is hosting Super Bowl XLIX tomorrow.
Thousands of people are already streaming into Phoenix from around the country and around the world, recreating a now-familiar scene from Disneyland’s holiday rush, where the first cases of measles are believed to have originated from a foreign visitor to the park.
According to a statement made by Gail Schust, MD, as reported by Yahoo Health, measles is “one of the most infectious diseases we know of. If you’re not immune, you have about a 9 in 10 chance of getting it through close contact.”
Close contact is what the Super Bowl is all about. Attendance at the 2014 Bowl broke 82,000 people, and the University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of tomorrow’s big game, has a maximum capacity (including standing room) of 78,600.
The measles virus is transmitted through airborne particles from a cough or a sneeze, and the virus can survive on a surface for up to two hours.
What is Arizona’s game plan for containing a possible outbreak?
In regards to Super Bowl XLIX, the health department has a three-part strategy: They will monitor the air for pathogens, test any suspicious substances confiscated at the game (this is a precaution against terrorist threats, rather than measles specifically), and they will provide enhanced surveillance in the areas around the stadium.
“These temporary enhanced surveillance activities will enable to public health and healthcare system to quickly identify health threats, enabling us to more rapidly implement public health interventions,” according to Arizona health officials.
Despite this, Maricopa County health departments are urging anyone who has not been vaccinated to stay out of public areas for at least 21 days. Parents are also being asked to keep their children home from school for at least three weeks, long enough for the measles’ average incubation period of 14 days to run its course.
Once again, Arizona is urging anyone with possible measles symptoms to stay away from the game. They also urge recently vaccinated persons to do the same, as the MMR vaccination requires up to two weeks to become effective.