Since December, controversy has raged over an outbreak of measles that occurred at Disneyland and quickly spread across the United States. In recent weeks, most of the debates and fears have centered around the importance of vaccinations and the likelihood of this highly contagious disease causing a serious outbreak. However, as health officials begin to suggest that their states are safe, a new question is emerging: how much does it cost to manage an outbreak of an illness like the measles?
This query was recently answered in Utah, only days after state public health managers announced that the area’s measles outbreak was over. The ordeal began when two unvaccinated minors from Utah County returned home after a visit to Disneyland in mid-December. Before testing positive, the patients unknowingly exposed hundreds by visiting movie theaters, grocery stores, and church services. But while officials from the Department of Health stated that as many as 400 people could be affected, only one other patient, also unvaccinated, contracted the disease.
This unexpectedly positive outcome was the result of the constant effort of local health departments, who conducted numerous case investigations, assessed patients, and reviewed immunization records. Staff members also made more than 1,600 phone calls to 117 potential patients, who were quarantined and monitored daily. As part of these efforts, the Utah Public Health Laboratory conducted 29 laboratory tests, sending two samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, the Utah Poison Control Center responded to 300 calls from the public and the Utah County Health Department provided 586 measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines in January, logging more than 600 staff hours to meet public demand.
All in all, 90 Utah public health employees spent a total of 3,000 hours managing the measles outbreak. As a result, it has been estimated that the state spent $115,000 working to contain the virus cluster. However, this amount does not include indirect costs, such as public education, medical consultations, and private health care expenses.
While the state outbreak has been declared over, public health officials will continue to track any potential new cases. To prevent another outbreak, people are encouraged to get vaccinated for measles and other viruses if they have not done so already. If you cannot make an appointment with your doctor or find a vaccination program in your area, consider visiting an urgent care center. These walk in medical clinics offer a number of treatments for non-life-threatening conditions, as well as routine blood work, x rays, physical exams, and more.