Utah Public Health Officials Expect Measles Cases Soon, Urge Vaccination

May 2, 2019, 6:38 PM | Updated: 6:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Officials from the Utah Department of Health, University of Utah Health, and Intermountain Healthcare urged Utahns to make sure their vaccinations are up to date as measles cases continue to spread across the United States.

Dr. Allyn Nakashima, an epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health, said Utah typically sees two or three mumps cases over the course of the year. So far in 2019, she said there have been 13. Mumps cases, she said, can indicate the potential for measles.

“When we see an outbreak of mumps, we know that we have pockets of people within Utah that are unimmunized and are susceptible,” she said.

The vaccine that prevents mumps, MMR, also prevents measles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 704 cases of measles in 22 states so far in 2019. Utah has not seen any cases, but public health officials believe that will change.

“We probably won’t escape because people travel so much in the United States,” Nakashima said.

Workers in local clinics are seeing an increase in vaccine interest. Melissa Schubring, a nurse at the Salt Lake County Health Department’s South Main Public Health Center, said she sees one or two people coming in each day to get the MMR vaccine. Before the last couple of weeks, she said it was rare for people to come in for that reason.

“They’re looking to get their MMR because they either didn’t have one because it wasn’t available at that time or they only had one and they want to get a booster just with the concern of the outbreaks spreading,” Schubring said.

Children typically get two doses of the vaccine, but prior to 1989, they only got one dose. According to the CDC, one dose of the MMR vaccine is 93% effective against measles. A second dose boosts that number to 97%. People born before 1957 are assumed to have been exposed to measles and are protected against reinfection.

The Utah Department of Health says adults who do not have evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. In some circumstances, the Utah Department of Health recommends two doses. According to a news release from the department, those groups are:

  • College students who do not have evidence of immunity
  • Adolescents and adults who are traveling internationally and have not had measles or have not been vaccinated
  • Healthcare personnel without evidence of immunity (laboratory evidence of immunity, healthcare provider documentation of measles infection)
  • Family members and other close contacts of people with compromised immune systems, (including people with HIV infection) who are 12 months or older.
  • During a measles outbreak, people 12 months or older who are unvaccinated or have received only one dose of MMR should receive an additional dose.
  • People who received the measles vaccine in the 1960s should be re-vaccinated with one or two doses of the MMR vaccine.

At the South Main Public Health Center on Thursday afternoon, Matthew and Julianna Ahrend came in to get a second dose of the vaccine. They were concerned since they only got one dose as children. They said getting the full protection was their civic duty.

“People’s lives are in the balance here. There are a number of citizens who can’t, they absolutely cannot be immunized as a result of autoimmune issues and so that’s where we protect them,” Julianna Ahrend said.

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Utah Public Health Officials Expect Measles Cases Soon, Urge Vaccination