It may be difficult to understand public perception of threat when it comes to infectious disease, but, epidemiologically speaking, there are some important differences between the two, as partially summarized in the table below.
|Serial interval||8-12 days||5-15 days|
|Incubation period||10-12 days||2-12 days|
|Infectious period||~ 4 days before rash to several days after onset of rash||At onset of symptoms|
That said, this is a fascinating event due partially to people's attitudes regarding vaccines. Recently, the ramifications of such attitudes, in terms of implications for public health agencies, has been expressed very clearly by Lisa Aliferis (writing for NPR):
Local health officers in counties [in California] affected are busy tracing those who infected patients have been in contact with. Dr. Erica Pan, deputy health officer of Alameda County, says the county has shifted resources from Ebola preparedness to contact tracing for measles. Last year there were four cases of measles in Alameda County, she said, "but we had 400 contacts to investigate."This is remarkable. On 23 January, the California Department of Health reported that in LA and Orange counties alone there were 31 confirmed cases. A simple back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that if 4 cases required 400 contacts to be investigated (100 contacts per case on average), then 31 cases could require 3100 contacts to be investigated. No wonder health departments are refocusing resources away from Ebola and onto measles.
People who do not vaccinate their children, or catch up on missed vaccines as adults, do not only place themselves in danger of infection, they place the community in danger. Moreover, they cause scarce public health resources to be spent on controlling a vaccine preventable disease. It's ironic that the lyrics to It's a small world -- the theme song of a ride at Disneyland of the same name -- read
It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears.
There's so much that we share,
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all.
(image source: Wikipedia)