Health Department warns of measles

February 26, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
In response to two cases of measles in a Brooklyn family, the Health Department has issued a medical alert reminding New York City doctors to watch for the disease and promptly report suspected cases to the Department. A similar alert was issued last November.

Measles, which is not common in New York City, is spread by respiratory transmission and direct contact with the mucus or saliva of an infected person. Measles is usually diagnosed in unvaccinated people who have traveled overseas, or in individuals who live overseas and visit the city.

"Although measles cases are uncommon in New York City, we issued a health alert as a precautionary, proactive measure to remind doctors to look out for patients with symptoms consistent with measles," Health Department Assiastant Commissioner for Immunization Dr. Jane Zucker said. "Vaccinations are the safest and most effective way to prevent infection."

The measles vaccine is required for admission to the city's schools, colleges and daycare centers. The first measles vaccine dose should be given when a child reaches 1 year, with the second dose being administered at 4 to 6 years of age.

In New York City, approximately 96 percent of children between the ages of 19 and 35 months have received a measles vaccine.

About Measles

Measles is an acute viral illness characterized by a fever (101 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit), cough, red eyes, runny nose and conjunctivitis. The illness typically lasts 5 to 6 days, with a rash that starts on the face and then moves down the body to the extremities, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Complications from measles can include diarrhea and pneumonia, particularly in young children.

Currently, there are outbreaks of measles in California, United Kingdom, Belgium, and Israel, as well as endemic measles in much of the developing world. Endemic measles has not been seen in New York City in many years. The Health Department reminds travelers to be vaccinated prior to overseas travel.

About the Investigation

The Health Department investigates all cases of measles. Last year, the Department investigated 36 suspected measles cases, and 5 were confirmed. All 5 occurred in unvaccinated people who had traveled or lived overseas. As part of the Department's standard investigation, individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person will be assessed to determine whether they are immune to measles. People who are not immune will be referred for appropriate management.

For more information on Measles, click here.