On Friday, August 17, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that a case of measles had been confirmed in “a non-resident tourist” who had visited six Santa Monica businesses within a three-day period earlier in the month. No details about the tourist were provided, but at least two of the restaurants he or she visited – Ivy’s at the Beach and Chez Jay – are considered “celebrity hangouts,” with pricey menus that have no options for children. That could suggest that the person is an adult, even though measles – a highly contagious viral infection spread by coughing or sneezing – is commonly considered a disease of childhood.
That is, it used to be a common disease of childhood, one that afflicted hundreds of thousands of children in the United States every year, and killed as many as 30 percent of them, usually from complications such as measles pneumonia. Measles can also cause blindness, mental retardation, and – in children born to mothers who contract the disease – permanent deafness. Overall, the risks are much greater for infected adults than for children, but it’s no picnic for kids, either. (Keep reading.)