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(NYSDOH, MARCH 2024) — Measles cases are increasing worldwide. There have been recent cases throughout the U.S. including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. There is currently one case in New York State outside of NYC (Rest of State) and two cases in New York City for three total. Everyone should be alert for cases and call their health care provider or local health department if they have a fever and rash, especially if they have travelled abroad. Those who travel abroad should make sure they are vaccinated for measles.

Everyone should make sure they have received their measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines.

Measles is a serious disease that can make people very ill, especially young children. Complications include pneumonia, encephalitis, miscarriage, preterm birth, hospitalization, and death.

New York State's Measles Response

The New York State Department of Health is monitoring the situation very carefully. Local health departments are prepared to investigate cases and distribute vaccines or other protective measures as needed. If there is a person with measles, we will quickly try to stop it from spreading.

We are encouraging all residents to ensure that they have received the MMR vaccine.

What is measles?

Measles is a serious respiratory disease that causes rash and fever. It is very contagious. People with measles spread the virus by coughing or sneezing into the air. You can catch the disease by breathing in the virus or by touching an infected surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. You can get measles just by entering a room that an infected person visited up to two hours before.

Why are we concerned?

Measles has been increasing in many locations around the world. In addition, there have been recent cases in New York City, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. There is concern of continued spread leading to more cases here in New York State and so we are raising awareness about signs and symptoms of measles to quickly identify the disease and prevent transmission.

What is the best way to prevent measles?

Getting the measles vaccine is the best way to prevent measles.

You are considered vaccinated against measles if you have written proof of 2 valid doses of MMR vaccine, or other live, measles-containing vaccine.

You are also considered vaccinated against measles if you have a lab report of immunity, or you were born before 1957.

Anyone who has not been vaccinated against measles should receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine are recommended for all children and adults. This includes, in particular, health care personnel, college students, and international travelers. The doses should be given at least 28 days apart.

We recommend that all children get 2 doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine.

Children should get their first MMR shot at 12 through 15 months old (as soon as possible within this time-period). The second dose may be given as soon as one month after the first dose. But it is usually given between 4 and 6 years of age.

An early dose of MMR vaccine is recommended for children 6-11 months of age who will be traveling internationally or in an outbreak setting. These children will still need the 2 routine doses given at 12-15 months and 4-6 years of age to ensure protection. Therefore, they will receive a total of 3 MMR vaccines. Two doses of the measles vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. One dose is about 93% effective.

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What are the symptoms?

7-14 days, and up to 21 days after a measles infection, symptoms usually include:

  • high fever (may spike to more than 104°)
  • cough
  • runny nose (coryza)
  • red, watery eyes

3-5 days after symptoms begin a rash occurs:

  • The rash usually begins 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 may also appear on top of the flat red spots.
  • The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body.
  • When the rash appears, a person's fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit.

What are the complications of Measles?

A small number of people who get measles will need to be hospitalized and could die. Many people with measles have complications such as diarrhea and ear infections. Serious complications include pneumonia and brain swelling. Long term serious complications can also include subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, a brain infection that can lead to permanent brain damage. Additionally, Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of early labor, miscarriage, and low birth weight infants.

Is there a treatment for measles?

There is currently no treatment for measles, but acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be taken to reduce a fever. People with measles also need bed rest and fluids. They also may need treatment for complications such as diarrhea, an ear infection or pneumonia.

How does measles spread?

Measles is spread via an airborne route. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases. Up to 90% of those who are not immune to measles because they haven't been vaccinated or the vaccine didn't work, will get measles when they are exposed. The measles vaccine is very effective.

How long is a person with measles contagious?

A person with measles can pass it to others from 4 days before a rash appears through the 4th day after the rash appears.

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What should I do if I think I or my child has measles?

Stay home and call your health care provider or local health department right away. If you have measles, you could spread it to others. That's why it's best to call your health care provider or emergency room before being seen. They can tell you the best way to get checked without infecting others. Tell your health care provider or local health department if you, or your child, spent time with other people in the days before or after the measles rash began. These people may be at risk of getting measles themselves. Their health care providers or local health department might offer them a vaccine or immunoglobulin (IG) to help prevent them from getting measles.

We have someone infected with measles at home. Can we be around others?

People who are sick with the measles need to stay home until they are no longer contagious. Their close family members are also at risk of getting measles if they are not already vaccinated against measles. If they have not previously been vaccinated against measles, they may be eligible for preventive vaccine or immunoglobulin. They may also need to stay home for up to 21 days after they were exposed to measles. A person can spread measles to others even before they begin to feel sick. If you have measles in your house, please talk to your health care provider or the local health department as soon as possible. They will tell you how long you and your family members should stay home and what to do if anyone else gets sick.

If my child or another family member has been exposed to measles, what should I do?

Immediately call your local health department or health care provider for advice. Never been vaccinated? Get the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine within 3 days of being exposed. This may prevent you from getting measles. Some people may need to receive immunoglobulin – antibodies to the measles virus. It should be given within 6 days of being exposed. This may prevent or lessen the severity of measles.

What should I do if I'm not sure I was vaccinated against measles?

Check with your health care provider. If you were born before 1957 it's likely that you have been exposed to the virus and are immune. If you were born between 1957 and 1971, the vaccine you received may not have been as reliable. Ask your doctor if you've been properly vaccinated.

What should I or my family members do to prevent measles if we are traveling out of the country?

Measles is still common in many other countries. Make sure that you and your children are fully vaccinated before traveling out of the U.S.

Children, adolescents, and adults should have two doses of MMR vaccine, at least 28 days apart.

An early dose of MMR vaccine is recommended for children 6-11 months of age who will be traveling internationally or in an outbreak setting. This dose does not count as part of the routine doses given at 12-15 months and 4-6 years of age. These children will need a total of 3 MMR vaccinations.

My child is younger than 6 months. How can I protect them from getting measles?

Babies under 6 months are too young for the measles vaccine. But you can protect them by making sure everyone who lives in or visits your home is vaccinated. Avoid people who are sick with measles. Talk to your health care provider. Your child may benefit from immunoglobulin (IG), if they have been around someone who has measles.

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Page content source: NYSDOH, Get the Facts about Measles Revised March 2024.