Officials at the Utah Department of Health say there is an outbreak of measles in southeastern Utah and that if preventive measures are not taken immediately it could become a statewide epidemic.

State Epidemiologist Craig Nichols said two confirmed and 25 probable cases of measles have been reported in Carbon and Emery Counties over the past two weeks. The reported cases come from people ranging from age six months to 33. Ten of the people have been hospitalized. Health officials believe the outbreak began when an infected infant from California visited a doctor's office in Price and infected another Emery County infant."It is such a highly contagious disease that it can easily be spread through the air," said Nichols. "The virus can remain in a doctor's office and infect other people for up to eight hours."

Health Department officials are saying the number of measles cases in the current outbreak could reach 60, but they are taking steps to keep the disease from spreading to other parts of Utah. Children attending preschool through high school who live in Emery or Carbon Counties and who have not been immunized for measles will be excluded from school until they have received the proper immunization.

Health officials are warning that the disease could spread statewide unless everyone is properly immunized. The Bureau of Epidemiology is recommending children be immunized at 15 months. However, children who were immunized between the ages of 12 months and 15 months should be reimmunized. Health officials are also encouraging reimmunization for anyone born after 1957 and who received an immunization prior to 1970.

Nichols said measles is a major risk for college-age people because the vaccine used in the early '70s was not as effective as the one used now. Measles has more serious effects on older people, he said.

Measles was a common disease in the 1970s, but over the past decade measles cases have been very rare in Utah. In fact, only 16 cases of measles have been reported over the pastthree years and the two years prior to that no cases were reported. The last time there was a major measle outbreak in Utah was in 1983 when 40 measles cases were reported in Salt Lake County.

"By definition one case of measles is considered a outbreak," said Nichols.

Immunization clinics in the southeastern Utah have increased supplies and personnel to handle the increased demand for immunizations. People can receive immunizations at health clinics or from a private physician. A measles immunization from a health clinic will cost about $3.

Anyone suspecting they or someone they know has measles is urged to contact a local physician or health department office. Health officials are hoping to have the disease under control within four weeks.

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(Additional story)

Telltale signs

Symptoms: Measles is a disease that begins with cold symptoms - a runny nose, a high temperature, watery eyes and is followed by a rash that can last up to 10 days. If not treated in time it can lead to pneumonia, blindness, deafness, brain damage and even death. Officials estimate one out of every 3,000 measles cases reported in the United States ends in death.

Who should be immunized: Anyone born after 1957 and who received an immunization prior to 1970 who hasn't had the disease. College-age people are at greater risk because the vaccine used in the early '70s was not as effective as the one used now. Measles is has more serious effects on older people.

Who's safe: Those immunized since the mid-1970s or those who have had the disease.

Where to get immunized: People can receive immunizations at health clinics or from a private physician. Clinics in southeastern Utah have increased supplies and personnel to handle the increased demand for immunizations. A measles immunization from a health clinic will cost about $3.