Study: Salt Lake County in top 25 places at risk of measles outbreaks in 2019

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new study ranks Salt Lake County as one of the top 25 places across the country to have a measles outbreak in 2019.

The Utah Department of Health told KSL they have been tracking the virus.

“(The ranking is) not surprising because we do track our vaccinations among our communities and we knew this was coming,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist with the Utah Health Department. “We are seeing cases of mumps…[and] if we have mumps, measles will be right around the corner.”

The study, which was released by the health journal "The Lancet Infectious Diseases," a team of researchers ranked 25 counties across the country. Salt Lake County was number 19 on that list.

Read the study here.

The main reason is because Salt Lake has an international airport that is the 23rd busiest airport in North America and the 85th busiest in the world.

“A common way that people get exposed to measles is from international travelers and we’ve got this great international airport here in Salt Lake County,” said Dunn. “That does put us at a higher risk of having a measles outbreak just because of exposure.”

She also says there is no reason for panic or concern about traveling.

Dunn says the vaccination rate across the state is actually very high in the 96 and 97 percentile. There are some areas that are not as high, and she said that could be a problem.

Salt Lake International Airport Friday, May 10, 2019. Photo: Steve Breinholt, KSL TV
Salt Lake International Airport Friday, May 10, 2019. Photo: Steve Breinholt, KSL TV

“We do have these small pockets [in communities] that have low immunization rates that puts them at a higher risk for a measles outbreak,” she said. “The basics: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and just that hand face hygiene is what is going to keep a lot of people safe and healthy.”

The last time Utah had actual measles cases was in 2017 when three broke out. Currently, Utah has 15 cases of mumps.

Nancy Volmer, the spokesperson for the Salt Lake City International Airport, said they do have plans and procedures in place should a passenger be detected with an infectious disease.

“We are always doing exercises to visit various possibilities at the airport and this is just one of those that we have plans in place to address,” said Volmer.

The study ranked the top 25 US counties at risk of measles as follows:

    1. Cook, Illinois
    1. Los Angeles, California
    1. Miami-Dade, Florida
    1. Queens, New-York
    1. King, Washington
    1. Maricopa, Arizona
    1. Broward, Florida
    1. Clark, Nevada
    1. Harris, Texas
    1. Honolulu, Hawaii
    1. Wayne, Michigan
    1. Tarrant, Texas
    1. Multnomah, Oregon
    1. Orange, Florida
    1. Essex, New-Jersey
    1. Denver, Colorado
    1. Hillsborough, Florida
    1. San Mateo, California
  1. 19. Salt Lake City, Utah
    1. Suffolk, Massachusetts
    1. Clayton, Georgia
    1. Travis, Texas
    1. Hennepin, Minnesota
    1. Loudoun, Virginia
    1. San Diego, California


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Dan Rascon


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