A measles outbreak began in New York City in February, and while health officials have tried to contain the highly contagious disease, the number of cases continue to climb. To date, there have been 26 confirmed cases, which consists of 12 infected children and 14 infected adults.
The majority of measles cases have been reported and confirmed in the upper Manhattan area; however, there have been other cases in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the Lower East Side. In addition to the 26 confirmed cases of measles that originated in New York City, one other person has been diagnosed with the infectious disease; however, it has been determined that they were infected as a result of foreign travel and not from the New York City outbreak.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that affects the respiratory system. The virus lives in mucus found in the nose and throat of those infected. The virus is air-born and is spread when tiny virus-filled droplets are released into the air when those infected cough or sneeze. Those droplets are then breathed in by other people, who also become infected, or they are deposited on surfaces. The measles virus can live on a surface for up to two hours, and if someone touches an infected surface and then puts their fingers in their mouth, they too become infected.
In the early stages of infection, many measles symptoms mimic other illnesses and are not readily identifiable as being associated with measles, such as a runny nose, a fever, and a cough. Three to five days after infection, a more obvious symptom occurs, a blotchy, full body rash; however, in children, the rash can also be mistaken for a common childhood illness called roseola.
Other possible symptoms of measles include red, watery eyes, feeling tired and run down, and small white spots in the mouth that have blue centers. When trying to determine if someone is indeed suffering from the measles, it is best to take all symptoms into consideration, and if in the New York City area, seek medical attention to be sure, which will help prevent the number of measles cases from continuing to climb.
Measles can be prevented by receiving the proper vaccinations, which include a combination MMR vaccine that covers measles, mumps, and rubella. However, a 22-year-old woman in New York City, who was fully vaccinated, was still able to contract the measles virus and spread it to at least four other people.
University of California, San Francisco epidemiologist, George Rutherford reviewed the woman’s blood work and said that her body had responded to the measles virus as though it had never seen it before. While this woman is considered a “statistical anomaly,” it is scary to think that someone could still become infected and help spread the measles virus even after being vaccinated against the disease.
The local health department has urged people to watch for the warning signs and symptoms of measles and to seek immediate medical attention if they believe they have become infected. However, prior to going to the hospital, an urgent care facility, or to a family physician, Mary Bassett, the New York City Health Commissioner says people should first notify those facilities and let them know that they are coming in and may in fact have the measles. This will enable the healthcare facility to be ready for potentially infected patients and isolate them immediately upon arrival so other patients, who do not have measles, will not be at risk of infection by being exposed to them. This is an especially important precaution, which has been set in place to help prevent the number of measles cases in New York City from continuing to climb any higher.
Opinion By Donna W. Martin