Measles was nearly eradicated 20 years ago. However, outbreaks are occurring in surrounding mountain states now, due to many people who are not vaccinated. Health professionals are concerned that an outbreak of measles in Summit County is just a matter of time.
More than 600 cases of measles have been reported in states surrounding Utah. According to Summit County Nursing Director, Carolyn Rose, people traveling are contracting the disease and introducing it into their communities. With the high numbers of unvaccinated children now in the US, it’s becoming a serious concern for health officials.
“Unimmunized people are the whole cause of the outbreaks. There are some very small percentages of people who may have either had the disease or been vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. However, it's highly contagious and that is part of the problem. It stays alive for two hours, you know after someone's in the room, so the chances of someone having measles and exposing others is really highly likely and they are contagious for four days before and four days after the rash.”
The symptoms are flu like with a high temperature, runny eyes and a rash appearing a few days later, which lasts about five or six days. Rose says measles can cause encephalitis, an infection in the brain, and it can be deadly.
“With the smaller children, 50% of them are vaccinated up to, when they get into kindergarten, it's about 90% are vaccinated. So, 90% is pretty much our cutoff. We go below 90% and that's when we're going to start seeing that the herd immunity is not protecting those who are not vaccinated.”
She recommends people born in 1957 or later check their immunity to measles.
“People born during and after 1957 are not considered to have any natural immunity. There are several ways that you can know if you’re immune. You can go to your doctor and ask for a titer. A titer just shows the level of antibodies or the level of immunity that you may or may not have. Or you can just go in, if you've never had all these diseases, or you don't know if you had the diseases, just go in and get the MMR vaccine 28 days after the first.”
The three-day measles, known as Rubella, can cause birth defects if a pregnant woman is exposed and hasn’t been immunized.
“Rubella is not…you don’t get as ill with that. However, with a pregnant woman, I worry because there's so many childbearing age women out there who may not have been vaccinated because their parents chose not to vaccinate them.”
She says there have been small Mumps outbreaks, not in Summit County, but in some communities that are against vaccines.
Rose says the first dose of MMR is given between 12 and 15 months old with a second dose given between age four and six.
The Summit County Health Department offers $10 vaccines for those without insurance. They also bill insurance. Call them at 435-333-1500 for details. They also recommend assessing travel plans due to the outbreaks in some western states including California where she says there have been outbreaks.