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Utah physician discusses measles outbreak, offers information on immunization

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SALT LAKE CITY -- More than 95 measles cases have been confirmed nationwide in an outbreak that started in California’s Disneyland theme park in December.

Utah is one of several states to be affected by the virus, and while there's only been three confirmed cases here, health officials say everyone should be getting vaccinated if they haven’t already done so. Doctors said the measles vaccine comes in two doses, which are typically administered four weeks apart when a child turns 1 year old.

Kristin Dascomb, a physician specializing in infectious diseases at Intermountain Medical Center, said once a person has been immunized they don’t need to be vaccinated again, and she said there are ways for people who aren’t sure of their immunization status to find out whether or not they need a vaccine.

“If they don’t know if they’ve been vaccinated, they probably need to contact their primary care provider so that they can get tested for vaccination status,” Dascomb said. “They can prove whether or not their vaccination has been completed or if they’ve had the virus. If they were born before 1957, they are likely immune to the virus so it’s not needed.”

The symptoms of measles can be similar to other conditions going around at present. It starts with a high fever, cough and nasal congestion. Symptoms may include red eyes that water. Dascomb said it gets worse from there.

“As the disease progresses, you’ll start getting little spots inside the cheeks, which doctors will look for,” she said. “And then finally, the rash comes out probably about four days after. That’s a very red rash. Starts at the top of the head, moves down toward the feet over a few days, and that’s when the patient is at their most infectious.”

Experts said the virus is easily transferable between people.

“The disease is spread usually through coughs and secretions from the patients to others, usually to those who are unimmunized,” Dascomb said. “It is very easily spread, and can stay on not only objects in the area but also the air for up to two hours.”

Doctors said the only people who should not get the vaccine are people who are actively immuno-compromised or those who are allergic to the vaccine.