The measles outbreak is on course to be the worst in decades with 90 more cases reported nationally in the past week - the largest jump of the year - according to new numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between Jan. 1 and April 11 this year, there have been 555 individual cases of measles confirmed in 20 states, the second highest total reported in the country since measles was eliminated as an endemic disease in 2000.
The World Health Organization reported this week that there were more than 110,000 measles cases worldwide in the first three months of 2019, an increase of nearly 300 percent from the same period a year ago.
Outbreaks - defined as three or more cases - have been reported in Rockland County, New York City, Washington, New Jersey, California and Michigan. The outbreaks have been linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries such as Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring.
In Rockland, there have been 186 confirmed reports cases of measles as of Monday, April 15. A recent outbreak in Michigan has also been linked to New York.
According to the Rockland County Department of Health, 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 (when a person 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 they have a measles rash.”
The ongoing outbreak in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York began late last year when, according to health officials, an unvaccinated child became infected with measles while visiting Israel. Health officials in Rockland attempted to bar unvaccinated children from public places, but a judge prohibited the county from enforcing that rule.
"Since then, there have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel. People who did not travel were also infected in Brooklyn and Rockland County," the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website says.
The states that have reported measles cases to CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
In Rockland, “cases are presently clustered in eastern Ramapo - New Square, Spring Valley, Monsey - however due to Rockland County's small geographic size, exposure to the measles may occur anywhere in the county,” the Health Department noted.
“To prevent the spread of illness, the Department is advising individuals who may have been exposed and who have symptoms consistent with measles 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 flu-like symptoms, are advised to stay home and not go out in public.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.