NEW YORK CITY – April 8, 2008 – In response to several New York City measles cases tied to international travel, the Health Department today urged residents traveling abroad, to Europe and to Israel in particular, to be sure they are vaccinated against measles. Currently, there are large measles outbreaks in Israel and Switzerland, and outbreaks have occurred in other European countries, including in the United Kingdom and Belgium. The Health Department reminded doctors in February to watch for the disease and promptly report suspected cases. Ten measles cases have been identified so far in the city in 2008.
Measles is a viral respiratory disease that spreads though direct contact with the mucus or saliva of an infected person, or by airborne droplets. Most New York City cases occur in unvaccinated people who have traveled overseas, or in individuals who live overseas and visit the city. Approximately 94 percent of New York City’s young children have received a measles vaccine, providing good protection for the population overall. While endemic measles has not been seen in New York City in many years, the condition is still common in developing countries. In addition to Europe and Israel, measles is present in many travel destinations, including Japan and India.
“Vaccinations are the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and others, whether you are traveling to Europe or to a developing country,” said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, the Health Department’s Assistant Commissioner for Immunization. “If you’re traveling to or returning from Israel for the approaching Passover holiday, be sure you’ve had your shots.”
How to Help Prevent Measles
- All babies should be vaccinated for measles at age one, and a second dose should be given at four to six years of age. The measles vaccine is required for admission to the city’s schools, colleges and daycare centers.
- If you and your family are traveling overseas and have not been vaccinated, call your regular doctor to get a measles shot. Because of the ongoing outbreaks, children between six months and 12 months should be vaccinated if they are traveling. Older children and adults need two doses of measles vaccine to be fully protected. New Yorkers can also call 311 for immunization clinic locations.
- If you are hosting family members from overseas, particularly from Europe and Israel, ask them to get vaccinated before coming to the United States. This will help protect your family and your community from measles.
Measles is a respiratory illness that spreads though direct contact with the mucus or saliva of an infected person, or by airborne droplets. Symptoms include a fever, cough, red eyes and runny nose. The illness typically lasts five to six days, with a rash that starts on the face and then moves down the body to the arms and legs, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. One in three people with measles develops complications such diarrhea and pneumonia, which can lead to hospitalization, and even death. The disease can be more severe for infants, pregnant women and people who have weakened immune systems.
The Health Department investigates all cases of measles. Last year, the Department investigated 36 suspected measles cases, and five were confirmed. All five 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 are assessed to determine whether they are immune to measles. People who are not immune are referred for appropriate care.
For more information about measles, please visit the Health Department’s website.