Measles outbreak infects New York City
March 12, 2014
The New York City Department of Health confirmed yesterday that the measles outbreak has increased from 16 confirmed patients to 19 in areas including Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.
A department spokesperson said cases range from those who are 3 months to 63 years old.
“Nineteen cases have been confirmed to date — nine pediatric cases and 10 adult cases,” the spokesperson said. “Residents from Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn have acquired measles, but the outbreak remains centered in northern Manhattan. Five hospitalizations have occurred as a result of this outbreak.”
The measles is a respiratory virus, and symptoms include a blotchy rash, fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth. Serious complications from measles include pneumonia, brain inflammation and death.
Epidemiology professor James Stark said travelers from different areas may have infected others in New York.
“Measles is endemic in [other parts] of the world and travelers come to New York City from … places where immunization is not consistent,” Stark said.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given to children to prevent such outbreaks. The first vaccine should be given by the time a child is 12 months old and the second dose should be given around the age of four to six.
Carlo Ciotoli, associate vice president and executive director of the NYU Student Health Center, said every NYU student must present a record of their vaccination before they enter the university. Students who are not vaccinated are prone to being infected by measles.
“Given the high rates of MMR vaccination among NYU students the likelihood of measles among our student population is very low,” Ciotoli said. “This high rate of vaccination is in contrast to those individuals in New York City who have been recently infected with measles, where rates of documented MMR immunization were much lower.”
LS sophomore and epidemiology student Genesis Almanzar said she is not concerned about the measles outbreak.
“If enough NYU students work with children, there is a possibility of it reaching NYU,” Almanzar said. “We should all have had our measles vaccine so I’m not afraid of getting it.”
Fordham University recently had a mumps outbreak infecting about 13 people on its two campuses. Ciotoli said the recent mumps outbreak at Fordham should encourage students to make sure their vaccination still shows immunity. Students can check immunity to the viruses by running a blood test.
“The recent outbreak of mumps at Fordham University and the outbreak of measles in New York City again highlight the critical importance of our students being fully vaccinated,” Ciotoli said.
Jason McDonald, the spokesman for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said before the measles vaccinations became commonplace, three to four million people in the United States were infected every year. Since the introduction of the vaccine, there has been a 99 percent reduction in measles and only 55 reported cases in 2012.
“It is important to take a moment and reflect on the value of vaccines,” Stark said. “It’s amazing in how far we have come in that millions of cases of childhood disease have been averted due to vaccines.”
The Department of Health said it will be providing updated measles case numbers every Tuesday.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, March 12 print edition. Neela Qadir is a senior editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.