Utah’s first measles case in six years confirmed in Salt Lake County

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) confirmed today that a Salt Lake County resident has the measles, the first case of the illness in Utah since 2017.

According to a statement from the SLCoHD, the individual was not vaccinated against the measles, and contracted the disease while traveling outside of the U.S.

Although measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, travel-acquired cases can still cause outbreaks here. An estimated 142,000 people die worldwide from the measles each year.

The SLCoHD received a report of the illness on March 22, and began a disease investigation. Contact tracers have notified those who may have been exposed, and advised those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated immediately. The public is at minimal risk if illness.

“Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, SLCoHD executive director. “The measles vaccine is safe and effective: two doses provide about 97% protection and one dose is about 93% effective.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children receive the first dose of the MMR, measles, mumps, rubella, or MMRV measles, mumps, rubella, varicella vaccine at 12 to 15 months, and the second dose at 4 to 6 years. Adults should consult their health care provider to see if they need the MMR vaccine.

“While over 90 percent of children in Utah schools and childcare facilities are adequately vaccinated, there are still people in our community who are not protected,” Dunn said. “Being fully vaccinated against measles does more than just protect the person who receives the vaccination; it also protects their family and friends, including children who may be too young to be vaccinated, and it helps limit the spread of disease in the community.”

The disease is transmitted by inhaling respiratory droplets from the infected person, or touching surfaces contaminated with droplets. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases, and over 90% of unvaccinated people in close contact with the infected person will become ill.

Symptoms of measles typically appear 7-14 days after exposure, and include:

  • Fever of 101°F or higher
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Rash that begins 3-5 days after exposure on the face and spreads to cover the body

Complications from the illness can include ear infection, pneumonia, swelling of the brain, and even death. Children under 5, adults over 20, pregnant people, and those with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk of complication.

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