PRESS RELEASE: May 02, 2011
County Health Department Urges Residents To Be Up To Date On Measles Vaccination
The Hunterdon County Department of Health is following a number of cases of measles now being reported in New Jersey. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services today identified a Camden County man with probable measles who may have exposed an unknown number of people at public locations in South Jersey between April 21 and 24. The man had been exposed to an infected woman who recently traveled here from Italy. This case is not related to possible measles exposures DHSS announced last week involving two French women who have since recovered.
“With the emergence of measles here in New Jersey, we’re stressing with county residents some important information about this disease,” said John Beckley, health officer and director of the county health department. “Foremost, we urge everyone to make sure they and their family members are up to date on their measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and all other age-appropriate immunizations. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects others around you who are too young to get the vaccine or can’t receive it for medical reasons. Two doses of measles vaccine are more than 99 percent effective in preventing measles.”
Beckley also advises residents that if they are planning an international trip to be aware that the World Health Organization recommends that adults or adolescents unsure of their immune status get a dose of measles vaccine before traveling. “Europe is in the midst of a serious measles outbreak, with more than 6,500 cases reported in 33 countries so far in 2011,” said Beckley. “This outbreak provides a timely reminder of the value and public health benefits of having mandatory vaccination laws. Some countries in Europe that lack strict vaccination requirements are now experiencing the public health consequences of those policies.”
Measles is a highly communicable disease caused by a virus. This virus multiplies in the nose, throat, and lymph nodes and can spread throughout the body. People of any age who have not had measles or who have not been properly vaccinated can get the virus. Measles can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) in 20 percent of those infected, especially children under 5 and adults older than 20. The infection in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, premature birth or a low-birth weight baby.
“We know that measles is transmitted from person to person through airborne droplets from the upper respiratory system of the infected individual,” said Beckley. “The challenge from the public health perspective is to work quickly to stop or limit the spread of the disease. But this can be quite daunting because people can actually become contaminated just by entering a room within two hours of that space being previously occupied by an infected person.”
Further complicating the work of public health is the length of time someone with measles can be infectious. That period extends for about four days prior to a rash appearing and continuing until about five days after the rash emerges. The most communicable period occurs with the onset of fever and cold symptoms, which is typically before measles is even suspected.
Early symptoms of measles can also be difficult to diagnose because they are mild or not even apparent. The first obvious symptoms are a rising body temperature of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and then typical cold signs including a cough, runny nose and sometimes watery eyes. The most recognized tell-tale indicator of measles is the flat or raised rash that most times appears on the face and then spreads throughout the body, even including the hands and feet. In some cases, there can be diarrhea, lack of appetite and swollen lymph glands.
For those who get measles, there is no treatment available but to let the virus run its course. That is why prevention in the form of vaccination is a key. Since 1989, two doses of measles-containing vaccine separated by at least one month is the recommended practice in the U.S. The first dose is usually given at 12-15 months of age. The subsequent dose can be given one month later, but many wait until the child is ready to go to school at 4-6 years of age. That second dose can even be given at any older age.
For more information about measles, contact your health care provider or visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s web site at www.cdc.gov/measles.