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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why It’s Never Too Early to Begin Brushing Your Child’s Teeth

(Salt Lake City) - For those who think cavities affect only school-aged kids, think again. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Association says about 40% of children ages 2 through 5 have cavities.  This may be a sign that children are either not brushing enough, or aren’t brushing the right way.  But there are many things parents and caregivers can do to prevent tooth decay in children.

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Oral Health Program (OHP) recommends parents start cleaning baby’s mouth even before the first tooth pushes through the gum. “The human mouth is full of billions of bacteria,” says the program’s Michelle Martin, RDH. “Sugar, acid and bacteria are what start the process of decay,” Michelle adds.  “So wet a soft, clean washcloth and clean the tooth and the gums every day. When a few more teeth start coming in, that’s when you buy an infant brush and use it for two minutes twice a day on every surface of every tooth.” 

Other important tips for infants and children include:

Parents should brush their child’s teeth. It’s ok for the child to practice brushing daily with a parent’s help.

When children are old enough to tie their shoes, they’re ready to brush their teeth on their own. 

Remind children they don’t need to brush hard. Instead, show them how to brush softly in a circular motion. Electric and battery-powered toothbrushes are great for helping to remove plaque. 

Avoid giving children sodas and other sugary drinks. Encourage more water. 

Use only water in sippy cups.

Everyone in the family should floss once a day. Place a container of it in the shower and encourage everyone to floss there.

Don’t share spoons or forks with children. Bacteria spread that way.

NEVER put a child to bed with a bottle. The sugar in milk starts the process of decay. NEVER put anything in a bottle but milk, water or formula.

February is Children’s Dental Health month, and experts say it’s a reminder that children of all ages need to be good caretakers of their teeth. Kim Michelson, DDS, State Dental Director, Utah Department of Health, says tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children ages 6 to 11 years. “The good news," Michelson says, "is it’s very preventable if you just brush and floss your teeth daily.”  Michelson recommends children see their dentist every six months, starting at age one.
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Media Contacts:
Michelle Martin
Kim Michelson, DDS

Thursday, February 12, 2015

UDOH Employee to Share Story of Treating Ebola in Africa

WHAT: Dr. Angela Dunn, a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer currently assigned to the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), will share her story of responding to the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Dr. Dunn traveled to Sierra Leone in October 2014, and spent four weeks battling the Ebola outbreak. 

She will share her experience during a brown bag presentation for UDOH employees, which members of the media are also invited to attend.

WHY: Nearly 23,000 people in West Africa have been diagnosed with Ebola, and more than 9,100 of them have died as part of the current outbreak. Sierra Leone has been hit especially hard, with nearly 11,000 cases and more than 3,300 deaths.   

WHO: Angela Dunn, MD MPH
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer assigned to the UDOH

WHEN: Today, February 12, 2015

WHERE: Utah Department of Health
                Room 114
                288 North 1460 West
                Salt Lake City, UT 84116

**Note: Dr. Dunn’s presentation will include photos of patients who have not signed release forms for their images to be used in media reports. Please refrain from taking photographs or video that would identify patients. There will be several photographs presented that do not identify patients.**
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Tom Hudachko
Public Information Officer
(o) 801-538-6232
(m) 801-560-4649

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Data Show Family, Religious Activity Protect Youth from Suicide Ideation

(Salt Lake City, UT) – A new report from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) showed that in 2013, 14.1% of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 reported that during the past year they had seriously considered suicide. However, students who had positive family environments and attended religious services weekly were less likely to have considered suicide. 

“We tend to focus on risk factors when we talk about suicide prevention,” said Jenny Johnson with the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “But for the first time, we have Utah-specific data that pinpoints factors that can protect youth from suicide. Prevention efforts should focus on improving family communication and relationships.”

The report compared the effects of positive peer, school, community, and family environments and found that, of these, only the family environment had a significant effect on suicide ideation. Students who had a positive family environment were 25% less likely to report suicide ideation. Positive family factors included if youth felt that their parents considered their input in making family decisions, that they had opportunities to do fun things together as a family, and that they felt they could ask their parents for help when they had a personal problem. Having family meals together five or more days a week also lowered the risk of suicide ideation by half. 

“Sixty-percent of students surveyed reported they attended religious services or activities once or more a week,” said Johnson. “These youth were about half as likely to have considered suicide. Even among those who’d had an episode of depression in the previous year, religious involvement was still protective.”  

The data come from the Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA), Utah’s largest school health and risk behavior survey. The PNA survey is conducted every two years in public and charter schools throughout the state to assess health-related behaviors and factors among students in grades 8, 10, and 12. 

“Suicide can be difficult to talk about,” said Kimberly Myers, Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “But it doesn’t have to be and you don’t have to do it alone.  Everyone plays a role in suicide prevention. Learn the warning signs, reach out to others who are struggling, call the crisis lines, and ultimately, collective efforts in these areas can save a life.”

In 2013, suicide surpassed unintentional injuries to become the leading cause of death among youth ages 10–19 in Utah. On average, 37 youth in Utah die from suicide and 942 are injured in a suicide attempt each year. 

The report also identified risk factors for youth suicide ideation, including:

    •   Students who had been bullied more than once during the previous year (18.6%) were more than four times more likely to have seriously considered suicide.
    •   Students who had been bullied electronically (15.9%) were four and a half times more likely to have considered suicide. Students who had been bullied both at school and electronically two or more days out of the past year were at an especially high risk; 5.8 times more likely to have considered suicide. 
    •   Students who used video games or computers for non-school-related activities for three or more hours per day (24.8%) were about twice as likely to have seriously considered suicide compared to those who had used electronics two or fewer hours per day.

All suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Get help 24/7 by calling the UNI CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is also available  

The report can be downloaded at

For more information on suicide prevention visit or
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