Measles in Utah, Health Officials Recommend Vaccine

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(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Mary Royal

(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

 

It’s known as the happiest place on earth, but for two individuals from northern Utah, Disneyland was not quite so happy this time around.

On Jan. 3, the Utah County Health Department announced that minors who had recently returned from the theme park were showing symptoms of measles. A preliminary blood test was conducted, but additional blood work was necessary in case of false positive results.

The second blood test was taken and reported on Jan. 5, confirming the two cases in Utah. Immediately after receiving word, the Utah Health Department went to work to trying to identify the exact travel history and exposure of the individuals, as well as the spread of the virus, which includes 22 reported cases of measles in California.

Rebecca Ward, a health educator with the Bureau of Epidemiology within the Utah Health Department, said this is common for cases of the measles.

“The thing with measles is that you are often infectious before you are symptomatic,” Ward said. “This means that you might not feel sick enough to stay home from work or school. You may feel perfectly fine to go to the grocery store or out to dinner. However, during this time you are infectious and are potentially spreading the disease to others around you.”

Symptoms of the measles usually arise four to seven days after the initial exposure has occurred. It begins with cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose and watery eyes. This is often followed by a fever. These symptoms last about 14 days. During this time there are no other symptoms and many infected individuals have reported that they believed they had nothing more than the common cold. It is after two weeks that the rash begins to show on the face and starts to progress its way down the rest of the body. The rash can last up to a week and includes bumpy, red spots, but generally no itching is associated with the rash.

Lance Madigan, spokesperson for the Utah County Health Department, said the best and only way to protect yourself from the measles is to be vaccinated with the MMR shot, which covers measles, rubella and mumps.

“MMR has a 95 percent protection rate,” Madigan said. “There is a small percentage of people who do not respond to the vaccine; however, overall it is highly effective in protecting individuals from contracting measles, mumps or rubella. Those that are unvaccinated or who do not respond to vaccination, if in contact with the measles, run a 90 percent chance of contracting the disease.”

Those who the Utah Department of Health have identified as being at risk for contracting the measles due to exposure have been asked to self-quarantine themselves for a period of 21 days. If any of those individuals have been vaccinated with MMR, they are being asked to present documentation of their vaccination to public health authorities who will then lift the quarantine.

“Vaccination is the best way to protect others,” Ward said, “by protecting yourself as well.”

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