Utah asks dozens to quarantine themselves to stop measles

Apr 26, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Utah officials who are fighting a measles outbreak have asked about 40 people so far to quarantine themselves because they might have been exposed to the virus when they attended either of two recent community events in Salt Lake City, a Utah Department of Health (UDH) spokesman said today.

On Apr 21 the department announced that a person who was infectious with measles attended both events, potentially exposing many others present. The agency wanted to talk to those who attended so it could determine if they were properly vaccinated against measles and, if not, could ask them to quarantine themselves. Those who attended the events, at a college and a university, were asked to call the Utah Poison Control Center.

The UDH estimates that about 1,000 people attended the two events, department spokesman Tom Hudachko told CIDRAP News today. As of yesterday about 120 people had called to report they were present, he added.

"We have advised 40 individuals who attended one of the community events to quarantine themselves as a result of being unvaccinated, under-vaccinated, or not knowing their vaccination status," Hudachko said.

"We have not been keeping tabs on whether individuals agree to quarantine, but anecdotally I can tell you most of those we speak with are understanding and cooperative," he added.

Nine measles cases have been confirmed in the Utah outbreak, which is the state's first since 2005 and the largest since 1996, when there were 119 cases, Hudachko reported.

The two events in question were a lecture by author Nicolas Kristof at the Salt Lake Community College's South City Campus on Apr 11 and the Entrepreneurial Challenge Final Awards Event at the University of Utah's Rice Eccles Stadium on Apr 13.

The health department said those at risk for measles in connection with the events would be asked to quarantine themselves at home until the end of their infectious period, which is Apr 29 for the community college event and May 1 for the University of Utah event. "This means no school, work, church, outside contacts, or community events," the agency said.

The measles virus "is transmitted by respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, and is so contagious that 90 percent of people in close contact with an infectious person will get the disease if they're not immunized," the UDH statement said. It noted that symptoms of measles include a fever of 101°F or higher, cough, runny nose, and a rash that spreads to cover the body.

Hudachko said the UDH effort to contact attendees at the two events is unusual for its scale. He reported that Utah's state epidemiologist told him that he "was not aware of us having done anything on this scale for this type of issue. We have done contact of a large number of people in relation to investigating an outbreak—eg, foodborne outbreaks at resorts, etc—but probably not on this scale."

The UDH statement said maximum protection from measles requires two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. However, people who have had measles or were born before 1957 are considered to have adequate natural immunity even if they have not been vaccinated, the statement said. Those who aren't sure if they are fully immunized should contact their healthcare provider or local health department, the agency said.

The infectious person who attended the two events was not aware of having measles at the time, according to a UDH spokeswoman who was quoted in an Apr 21 Salt Lake Tribune story.

See also:

Apr 21 Salt Lake Tribune story

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