A study of a measles outbreak last spring concludes that Iowa got off relatively cheap by stopping the spread of the disease quickly. State Epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk participated in the study that centered on a case of measles brought in from outside the U.S. in March of 2004.She says they looked at how many unvaccinated people were around the people with the measles and how much it would have cost had those people caught the measles. She says they estimated it would’ve cost over 700-thousand dollars.Doctor Quinlisk says the actual cost ended up at nearly 143-thousand dollars. Most of the expense came in tracking down people who might’ve been infected. Quinlisk says the report concludes it’s cheaper to pay money to use the vaccines than it is to try and stop an outbreak once it gets started. She says if people get vaccinated, then they never get the disease and never bring it into the country in the first place. Quinlisk says they also learned that some new Homeland Security measures proved helpful. She says the outbreak happened about 10 days after the state’s new public health response to terrorism law went into effect. She says the use the portion of the law that allowed them to put people into quarantine and ask them to stay home to avoid infecting anyone else. Quinlisk says the potential for an outbreak of measles or some other disease is not as remote as people may think.She says it happens more often then we’d like and says right now Indiana is dealing with a measles outbreak that they haven’t been able to get stopped. Quinlisk credits local health department officials with doing a lot of the legwork in the Iowa outbreak to find people who may’ve been exposed. She says 96 to 97-percent of schoolchildren in Iowa get vaccinated — so there are some gaps. Quinlisk says the public may not think of measles as being a dangerous disease, but she says it can lead to symptoms that’re very costly to get under control.
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