Communities in New York continue to battle back against the measles outbreak, but the number of cases keep rising.
- There are 219 confirmed cases of the measles (as of Wednesday) outside of New York city, concentrated in Rockland County
- Some lawmakers are pushing for legislation mandating vaccinations in children
- After a State of Emergency was ordered, Rockland County saw a spike in vaccinations
A state of emergency in Rockland County has been in effect for approximately three weeks, but is being blocked by a restraining order so the county cannot act on the emergency.
County Executive Ed Day says he plans to renew the order next Thursday when it expires, but a status hearing is also on the court calendar for Friday.
"To be told that we should wait for someone to die because of this disease is absolutely beyond belief," Day said.
BACKGROUND ON THE OUTBREAK
More than 81 percent of people in Rockland County who’ve been vaccinated have not gotten the measles. As of Wednesday, 190 cases had been confirmed in Rockland County. 329 have been confirmed in New York City since Jan 1.
The majority of cases of MMR in the county are in children under 18. So far, five children have been treated in intensive care and the measles have caused one premature birth.
Day said the measles outbreak, on the low end, will likely cost the county at least $2 million.
That is based on the cost of tracking and preventing the spread of the disease, health care costs and effects on the county's ability to attract business and tourism. He compared the cost to a 2015 outbreak in Brooklyn with just 58 cases that cost $400,000.
Since the state of emergency was issued, more than 1,700 people in the county have gotten vaccines, bringing the total number of people vaccinated over 18,000.
However, 37 more people have contracted measles since then. The county has appealed a judge’s ruling that the state of emergency must be halted, after parents at one local school sued saying there was no justification. The appeal is set to be heard in Rockland County Court on Friday.
Measles is an extremely contagious virus, but vaccinations prevent people from contracting it — anyone who receives two doses is "highly unlikely" to get the virus, according to the state health department. Health officials advise that children should get an MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine at their first birthday and then a second dose before entering elementary school between the age of 4 and 6. If you have an infant, between 6 to 11 months old who will travel internationally with you, they should also get the vaccine.
In addition, anyone born after January 1, 1957, who has not received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine or who does not have a blood test proving that they are immune to measles, should get two doses of the MMR vaccine, the health department says. Two doses of the vaccine are 97 percent effective in preventing infection.
Vaccination is extremely important for the wider population as a whole. It helps maintain "herd immunity," meaning a large enough percentage of the population is vaccinated against the virus, which helps prevent its spread to those most vulnerable.
New Yorkers are advised to call the New York State Measles Hotline at 888-364-4837 for more information on the vaccine, including where they can get it.
HOW DOES MEASLES SPREAD?
The measles virus is spread through the air, like when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The virus can be active in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours, and according to Albany Medical Center Dr. Danielle Wales, it is "more contagious than Ebola."
WHO CAN GET MEASLES?
Anyone but measles is more dangerous for infants, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems.
Dr. Wales added if you're unprotected and you come into contact with the virus you have an over 90 percent chance of getting sick.
CAN SOMEONE WHO HAD MEASLES ONCE BECOME INFECTED AGAIN?
No, someone with measles develops immunity and cannot get it again.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Early symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
- A rash of red spots on the face, which then spreads to the entire body, appears three to five days after someone exhibits the initial symptoms of measles. Someone with measles can spread the virus between four days before and four days after they see the rash.
Symptoms generally appear 10 to 12 days after someone is exposed to measles, although they can appear as soon as seven and as late as 21 days after exposure.
Someone with measles can experience:
- Ear infections
- Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
- Premature birth or the birth of children with low weight
Among serious complications, 1 in 20 patients get pneumonia, and 1 in 1,000 experience brain swelling that can lead to seizures, deafness or intellectual disability.
While it's rare in the U.S., about 1 in every 1,000 children who get measles dies, according to the CDC.
Before measles vaccination was a part of standard care, most people under the age of 15 got infected and about 400 to 500 people died as a result every year.
For more information, visit the city health department's website.
IS THERE TREATMENT?
No drug exists to treat or cure measles. Some symptoms can be treated, like a fever.
HOW SAFE ARE THE VACCINES?
Medical experts almost unilaterally concur that the vaccines are safe and do not cause autism. The city notes that nine CDC-funded or conducted studies since 2003 have found no link between the vaccines and autism spectrum disorder.
The vaccine can cause some small side effects, such as localized pain, soreness, and tenderness, or a fever that lasts a day at most, but those are the result of the body getting accustomed to the virus and building the antibodies against a more serious threat of the virus.