Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Utah Declares End to Measles Outbreak

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah public health officials today declared the end of a measles outbreak that infected three residents and exposed hundreds more to the highly contagious virus. The measles cases were first identified in January by Dr. Douglas Hacking when two Utah County residents tested positive for the disease after traveling to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park in mid-December where they were exposed to the virus. A total of three confirmed cases were identified, and nearly 400 other individuals who were exposed to the confirmed cases were contacted to assess their immunization status. 

No additional measles cases have been confirmed and Utah’s outbreak is considered over. 

As a result of this vaccine-preventable disease outbreak, local health departments (LHDs) completed numerous case investigations, assessed patients and contacts for symptoms, vaccination history, and evidence of measles immunity. Contacts without documented evidence of immunity were offered MMR vaccine or immunoglobulin, a protein the body uses to fight infection, or placed in voluntary quarantine. 

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) made more than 1,600 phone calls to the 117 individuals who were placed in voluntary quarantine. These individuals were monitored for symptoms of disease on a daily basis throughout their 21-day quarantine. The Utah Public Health Laboratory (UPHL) conducted 29 laboratory tests and sent two samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing. Utah County Health Department administered 586 doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine in January alone, and logged more than 600 staff hours (UCHD typically gives about 100 MMR vaccinations a month). In addition, public health partnered with the Utah Poison Control Center, which triaged nearly 300 phone calls from the public.

Public health’s direct cost for the measles outbreak response was approximately $115,000. Those costs include such items as public health staff hours: approximately 90 employees spent nearly 3,000 hours working the outbreak, including administering vaccines and immunoglobulin and laboratory testing. The estimate does not include other indirect costs such as public education and awareness, provider consultation conducted by local health departments, or any private health care associated costs. These costs are difficult to determine, but would certainly increase the overall cost of responding to the outbreak. 

Measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that spreads quickly in unvaccinated populations, highlighting the importance of protecting children and adults against measles in the United States through vaccination. 

Vaccination is an important line of defense for two reasons. First, vaccination directly protects the person being vaccinated. Second, having a high percentage of the population vaccinated protects others, including those who cannot be vaccinated because of severe allergies to vaccine ingredients, medical conditions, or who are too young to begin vaccination. This outbreak serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining high vaccination rates, even for diseases that are rarely seen in the United States, as long as those diseases continue to circulate in other parts of the world. 

While this Utah outbreak is considered at an end, public health officials continue to closely monitor the community due to the ongoing outbreak in other states. As of Monday, the CDC reports 133 people in seven states were linked to the same outbreak. Anyone not fully vaccinated runs the risk of being exposed and beginning another disease outbreak in Utah.

For general information on vaccines, please visit, or call the Utah Department of Health Immunization hotline at 1-800-275-0659, or your local health department. For more information on the measles outbreak, contact the Bureau of Epidemiology at 801-538-6191. 

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Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward, Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6682 (m) 801-352-1270

Lance Madigan, Utah County Health Department
(cell and text) 385-204-4627