1. Health
Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Containing Measles Outbreaks is Expensive

By September 6, 2011

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About 200 people have gotten measles so far this year in the United States - the most since 1996.

How much would have cost to prevent those infections? Since you would only have had to prevent the primary cases, the ones who got sick when traveling out of the country or who were exposed to travelers from out of the country, it might be the price of a few dozen vaccines.

It has cost significantly more to contain those measles outbreaks.

We don't know how much it cost to contain the outbreaks in Massachusetts, Indiana, or Minnesota (their first big outbreak of the year), but we can use these outbreaks as a reference:

  • Utah spent about 3,000 work hours and $130,000 trying to contain their outbreak this year
  • two hospitals in Arizona spent about $800,000 containing a measles outbreak
  • the 2008 measles outbreak in California cost about $179,000 to contain
  • a 2005 outbreak in Indiana cost $170,000 to contain
  • a 2004 outbreak in Iowa cost $140,000 to contain

In an era when many county health departments are facing deficits, layoffs, and cuts in services, it doesn't make much sense to have spend so much money on containing a vaccine preventable disease.

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