A couple of weeks ago I had journalist, Tara Haelle on the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show to talk about her recent piece in Forbes, Measles Outbreak in Dollars and Cents: It Costs Taxpayers Bigtime, where she went over the very high expense of a measles outbreak.
On Wednesday, we see another example of the burden on the taxpayer when it comes to this most highly contagious virus.
The State of Utah declared the measles outbreak over yesterday. Health officials say the outbreak infected three residents and exposed hundreds more. It was linked to the Disneyland outbreak.
The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) made more than 1,600 phone calls to the 117 individuals who were placed in voluntary quarantine. These individuals were monitored for symptoms of disease on a daily basis throughout their 21-day quarantine. The Utah Public Health Laboratory (UPHL) conducted 29 laboratory tests and sent two samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing. Utah County Health Department administered 586 doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine in January alone, and logged more than 600 staff hours (UCHD typically gives about 100 MMR vaccinations a month). In addition, public health partnered with the Utah Poison Control Center, which triaged nearly 300 phone calls from the public.
Public health’s direct cost for the measles outbreak response was approximately $115,000. Those costs include such items as public health staff hours: approximately 90 employees spent nearly 3,000 hours working the outbreak, including administering vaccines and immunoglobulin and laboratory testing. The estimate does not include other indirect costs such as public education and awareness, provider consultation conducted by local health departments, or any private health care associated costs. These costs are difficult to determine, but would certainly increase the overall cost of responding to the outbreak.