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Health officials warn about possible measles outbreak, urge Utahns to get up-to-date on immunizations

By Katie McKellar - Utah News Dispatch | Apr 1, 2024

Paul Vernon, Associated Press

A vial of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is seen in Mount Vernon, Ohio, on Friday, May 17, 2019.

Utah public health officials on Monday warned about a potential measles outbreak in the state, pointing to outbreaks in other states

As of Thursday, a total of 97 cases were reported in 17 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, according to a news release issued by both the Utah Department of Health and Human Services and the Salt Lake County Health Department.

In the three months since 2024 began, the U.S.has already almost doubled the number of measles cases compared to the previous year. In all of 2023, there were 58 cases nationwide, according to state and count officials.

“Measles, a serious respiratory disease caused by a virus, is one of the most contagious diseases,” the news release stated. “It is so contagious, that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people who are around that person will also become infected if they are not protected either by immunization or prior illness.”

State and county health officials said the MMR vaccine (a vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella), is 97% effective against measles when two doses are administered.

“The MMR vaccine has been used since the early 1970s and has saved millions of lives — and prevented significant suffering — around the globe,” said Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. “The MMR vaccine is safe and effective. Decades of careful research has shown the benefits of being vaccinated against measles far outweigh any risks the vaccine may pose. Babies may have a mild fever after vaccination and adults often have a sore arm. More serious reactions, like severe allergic responses, are extremely rare and can be treated.”

Measles can cause a rash and high fever, as well as serious illness, especially in young children, pregnant women and people who have weakened immune systems, health officials said. Someone who is infected with measles can spread it to others even before symptoms appear.

Measles can also cause severe illness and complications, including diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (a brain infection), seizures and death. Such complications can be more common among unvaccinated children younger than 5 years old, unvaccinated pregnant people and unvaccinated people who have compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia or HIV infection.

Health officials encouraged Utahns to check their immunization and medical records or talk to a healthcare provider to ensure they’re vaccinated for measles. They noted people planning out-of-state travel should especially make sure they’re protected. To check immunization records, Utahns can visit the Utah Department of Health and Human Services website.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


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