New York – A measles outbreak that is linked to a larger one in Jerusalem has local officials issuing warnings regarding 17 confirmed cases of the disease over the past several weeks in Monsey and Williamsburg.
The New York State Department of Health issued its first advisory on October 3rd, regarding a traveler from Israel who was later confirmed to have measles who potentially exposed people in Newark Airport, Bais Medrash of New Square, a succah located outside the Avir Yaakov Boys’ School and the New Square office of Refuah Health Center to the disease over Succos.
A second warning issued on October 13th advised that a traveler returning from Israel was confirmed to have the measles, potentially exposing people at two Monsey area synagogues, Wesley Kosher Supermarket, Costco, Westchester Medical Center, a New City reflexologist and a Montvale gym from October 4th through October 11th. John Lyon, director of strategic communications for Rockland County executive Ed Day, said that 11 cases, five primary and six secondary, have been confirmed as of today, with three more suspected at this time.
“The Rockland County Department of Health continues to investigate these cases and will keep residents informed of any updates,” said Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert. “I recommend that residents make sure that they and their families are up to date on their measles vaccinations.”
Six confirmed cases of measles were reported today by the New York City Department of Health, involving children ranging in age from eleven months to four years from Williamsburg, one of whom was hospitalized for pneumonia. Five of those children had yet to be vaccinated because they were under a year old or had had their immunizations delayed, and one had not yet developed immunity to the measles after being inoculated.
The DOH will be holding a meeting on Thursday with community leaders and elected officials to increase awareness, with ads to be placed in local publications and posters distributed to local health care providers.
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, a member of the Assembly’s health committee, commended local officials for taking steps to contain the current outbreak.
“The safety of our children is of the utmost importance,” said Cymbrowitz.
Overseas, a Jerusalem outbreak of the measles has health officials extremely worried, with 213 cases reported in September, more than half the total number of cases reported in 2018.
Experts expect well over 2,000 cases of the measles to be confirmed in the outbreak, with five to ten new cases being reported daily at Jerusalem hospitals, according to Haaretz (http://bit.ly/2ykV0y8). Controlling the spread of the measles is nearly impossible said one specialist in infectious disease who spoke to Haaretz on condition of anonymity.
“The medical teams are doing Sisyphean work to try to locate everyone who may have come in contact with each patient but they can’t keep up and the disease continues to spread,” said the doctor.
The Jerusalem outbreak is believed to be linked to an abundance of children in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods whose parents are unaware of the dangers of the measles and the importance of vaccinations.
Concentrated efforts have been made to vaccinate as many people as possible in those areas and experts also warn that anyone born between 1957 and 1977 may not have been properly vaccinated and may not be immune to the measles.
The DOH recommends that all children receive the MMR vaccine at age 12 months, with a second dose at age four to six. With the current outbreak, doctors in some areas have been vaccinating children as young as six months old to prevent the spread of measles which is highly contagious and can cause severe complications, including death. Symptoms of the measles include fever, a rash, cough, conjunctivitis or a runny nose and may appear seven to 21 days after initial exposure.
Individuals who are considered to be protected or immune to the measles include those born before 1957, those who have had two doses of the MMR vaccine, those who have had the measles or those who have had their immunity confirmed by laboratory testing. Anyone who is not immune to the measles is urged to contact their local health care provider as soon as possible so that they can be vaccinated.
Additional outbreaks have been reported in Asia, South America and Africa, with 41,000 cases of measles confirmed and 37 deaths reported in Europe.