• A person who traveled outside the U.S. has been diagnosed with measles
  • The patient was reportedly not vaccinated against measles
  • Potentially exposed residents have been notified

Salt Lake County in Utah has confirmed a measles case, the state's first case in six years.

The case was logged in a resident who had traveled outside the U.S., the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) announced Thursday. The agency reportedly learned about the case Wednesday and "immediately began a disease investigation."

Though it did not provide further details about the person, citing medical privacy laws, the agency confirmed the patient was not vaccinated against the disease.

"This is the first case of measles in Utah since 2017," the health department noted.

Those who may have been exposed to the patient have already been notified. Unvaccinated residents were advised to get the measles vaccine.

"Receiving the measles vaccine after an exposure can prevent illness if the vaccine is administered within 72 hours of the exposure," the agency noted.

The risk to the public posed by the latest case is "minimal."

Measles is said to be among the most contagious diseases in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus that causes it can remain active and contagious in the air for up to two hours even after the infected person has left the area.

"Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected," noted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the U.S., measles cases tend to originate from international travel, with unvaccinated travelers bringing the disease into the country after getting infected in another place. People are being advised to make sure they are protected against measles before travel.

Spreading measles to others who are also unvaccinated may lead to outbreaks.

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) is a key player in public health strategies against the respiratory illness. It is said to be safe and effective, being 97% effective at preventing measles with two doses and 93% effective at preventing it with one dose.

From 2000 to 2018, measles vaccinations led to a 73% drop in deaths worldwide, preventing 23.2 million deaths during the period.

"While over 90 percent of children in Utah schools and childcare facilities are adequately vaccinated, there are still people in our community who are not protected," SLCoHD executive director Dr. Angela Dunn said. "Being fully vaccinated against measles does more than just protect the person who receives the vaccination; it also protects their family and friends, including children who may be too young to be vaccinated, and it helps limit the spread of disease in the community."

Measles in California
In this photo, a measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, Feb. 5, 2015. Reuters/Lucy Nicholson