It has now been one year since Utah’s Great Measles Outbreak of 2011. You may remember hearing about a few cases here, or a few other cases there. And it gradually quieted down. So what really happened? And could it be happening again? With the London Olympics just around the corner, we thought to revisit the risks, the potential, and how to protect yourself and your family.
Thanks to vaccinations, measles is actually quite rare these days… at least in modern nations. Before last year’s outbreak, Utah had not had one case of measles in six years! Not one.
Early in the spring of 2011 it became clear that measles had be reintroduced in Utah and was spreading rather quickly. A frenzy began, trying to figure out how it started, who had it, who was most at risk of getting it, and what could be done to stop it.
Measles outbreaks tend to cause such frenzies, simply because of the numbers. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of anyone near that person will also become infected if they are not immune. You can see the speed at which the measles could devastate a whole area. What we have going for us is, first, most people here have been vaccinated, which protects them from that initial contagion. We also have local, regional, statewide and even national procedures in place to handle such outbreaks, if and when necessary.
Last year, in Utah’s so-called outbreak, it was quickly discovered to have begun with one individual who had unknowingly contracted measles in Poland. Epidemiologists had determined at one point last spring that by the time they’d reached that person, more than 1,000 others had been infected simply by being in his presence at some point, according to the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. At one point, approximately 40 people who had been at the same events as the first person, were asked to be quarantined in their homes for nearly one month, just to prevent possible spreading.
With such a scare in our own neighborhoods just last year, it’s important to revisit the situation and be prepared for possibilities around us. It’s important that vaccinations of both young people and adults are current and completed.
**If you have any concern about contracting measles, the best thing you can do is to get vaccinated. Beyond that, stay away from areas where measles are common, and be aware of the signs and symptoms to watch for in case of exposure.