As of November 20, according to Rockland County, there are 76 confirmed reported cases of measles in the county. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that is spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people — in other words, when a person who is infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes.
Measles is one of the most contagious viruses on earth; one measles-infected person can give the virus to 18 others. In fact, 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before his or her rash appears.
Common symptoms — high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes — usually appear 10 to 12 days after exposure but may show up as early as seven days and as late as 21 days after exposure. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out, usually beginning as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps also may appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may join as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may go up to more than 104° Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.
People are considered infectious from four days before to four days after the appearance of the rash.
Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. Others who are at high risk for complications if they get the measles include pregnant women who are not immune, as well as those who are immune-compromised or immunosuppressed.
At the end of September, an international traveler arrived in Rockland County with a suspected case of the measles. Per protocol, the Rockland County Department of Health was notified and immediately activated its Communicable Disease Team to investigate. There have been additional cases of measles from international travelers to Rockland, exposing more people to measles. People who are unvaccinated risk getting infected with measles and spreading it to others.
These cases are presently clustered in eastern Ramapo (New Square, Spring Valley, Monsey), but because the country is small, exposure to the measles may occur anywhere in Rockland.
To prevent the spread of illness, the county’s health department is advising any who might have been exposed and has symptoms to contact their health care provider, a local clinic, or a local emergency department before going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness. Residents who have been asked by a health care provider to “watch for measles,” or who are otherwise ill, including with flu-like symptoms, are advised to stay home.
For more information call the New York State Department of Health’s Measles Information Line at (888) 364-4837 or (845) 364-8600 after hours/weekends or go to Health.NY. gov/Measles.