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Measles is no longer spreading in Utah

The MMR vaccine in Provo  Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. No additional measles cases have been confirmed in Utah, meaning the recent outbreak is over.
The MMR vaccine in Provo Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. No additional measles cases have been confirmed in Utah, meaning the recent outbreak is over.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The recent outbreak of measles is over in Utah.

Hundreds of Utahns were exposed to the highly contagious illness over the past several weeks and three cases were confirmed, according to the Utah Department of Health. The department spent $115,000 responding to the outbreak.

"This was a really good example of public health coming together for the public good," said Lance Madigan, spokesman for the Utah County Health Department. He said the local outbreak played out quickly in that it was identified early and people who were exposed adhered to the quarantine guidelines.

"The only scenario that would be better is if it would have not happened at all, if people had been vaccinated in the first place," Madigan said.

Measles was first identified in Utah in January after two Utah County residents returned from traveling to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Southern California, where they were infected with the viral disease. Another Utahn was exposed through association with the infected individuals, as well as nearly 400 others.

Local health department officials conducted many case investigations, which involved contacting hundreds of people who were potentially exposed to measles and assessing vaccination histories for those individuals. Contacts without documented evidence of immunity were offered a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine; given immunoglobulin, a protein the body uses to fight infection; or placed in voluntary quarantine.

Madigan said some people who were investigated had partial protection and others had none from the available vaccine. Two doses of the vaccine, he said, provides more than 95 percent protection to those who are vaccinated.

"It really is our best defense against measles," he said.

Ultimately, 117 people in Utah County were quarantined and monitored for a 21-day incubation period.

The Utah County Health Department gave 586 MMR vaccines in January and logged more than 600 staff hours, whereas that specific immunization usually captures just 100 hours in a month. The Utah Poison Control Center also fielded 300 calls on the matter.

Throughout the nearly two-month outbreak, local health officials encouraged unvaccinated individuals to become vaccinated, to stop the spread of the disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 133 people in seven states are linked to the same outbreak that spread from the California theme parks.

For information on vaccinations, visit www.immunize-utah.org or call 1-800-275-0659 or the local health department.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards