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Public health officials warn about possible measles outbreak

Utah public health officials are concerned about the potential for a measles outbreak in the state. As of March 28, 2024, a total of 97 measles cases were reported in 17 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. By comparison, in all of 2023 there were 58 cases nationwide.


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


The MMR vaccine is 97 percent effective against measles when two doses are given. “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.”



Public health officials in Utah encourage everyone to check their immunization and medical records or talk to a healthcare provider to see whether they are protected from the measles. People planning out of state travel, in particular, should make sure they’re protected from measles infection. To learn how to request your immunization record, visit immunize.utah.gov/usiisparents-individuals/. You can also check your immunization records in the Docket app or website.


Measles causes a rash and high fever and can cause serious illness, especially in young children, pregnant women and people who have weakened immune systems. A person who has measles can spread the illness to others even before they have symptoms. Measles can cause severe illness and complications, such as diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (brain infection), seizures and death. These complications are more common among unvaccinated children younger than five years old, unvaccinated pregnant people and unvaccinated people who have compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia or HIV infection.


Measles signs and symptoms generally appear 10 - 14 days after exposure to the virus. Common symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, red or watery eyes and tiny white spots that appear inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek (Koplik’s spots). A rash with small red spots generally begins three to five days after other signs of the illness starts. The rash typically starts at the face and then spreads down the rest of the body. An infected person can spread measles up to four days before the rash appears and up to four days after the rash has been present.


If you suspect you may have the measles, call a healthcare provider for instructions before you arrive to be seen. For more information, visit cdc.gov/measles/.

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