Salt Lake County confirms first measles case in 6 years

The infected person contracted the disease after traveling abroad.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, briefs the public on May 23, 2022. The health department on Thursday announced the first confirmed case of measles in Salt Lake County since 2017.

A Salt Lake County resident who traveled outside the U.S. has been diagnosed with measles — the first case confirmed in the county since 2017, the health department announced Thursday.

The resident was not vaccinated against measles, which officials declared was eradicated in the U.S. more than 20 years ago, the department said in a statement. They added that the public is “at minimal risk of illness due to this case.” The infected person only exposed their family members and those in “health care settings.”

Measles is transmitted by breathing an infected person’s respiratory droplets, or touching surfaces where those droplets have landed. It’s one of the most contagious diseases, according to the health department.

County health officials received a report of the person’s illness on Wednesday. They declined to share additional information about the infected person, citing medical privacy laws.

Dr. Angela Dunn, the health department’s executive director, said in the statement that vaccines can prevent measles. She said one dose is about 93% effective and two doses provides about 97% protection.

Dunn said more than 90% of Utah children are vaccinated against measles, but added “there are still people in our community who are not protected.”

“Being fully vaccinated against measles does more than just protect the person who receives the vaccination,” Dunn said. “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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children receive their first dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine at 12 to 15 months, and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old.

A dose of the measles vaccine can also prevent illness in unvaccinated people who have been exposed to the disease, so long as they receive the shot within 72 hours of exposure, the health department said.

Measles symptoms include a fever of 101 degree or higher, in addition to cough, runny nose, red or watery eyes and a face rash that spreads to cover the body. Symptoms usually appear one to two weeks after exposure.

Complications from the disease can include ear infections, pneumonia, brain swelling and death. Children under 5, adults over 20 and pregnant or immunocompromised people face the greatest risk of complications.

“Most people with measles are quite ill,” the health department said.

The CDC reports that around 134,200 die from measles every year, noting that outside the U.S., the disease is still considered common.