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Measles Outbreak in Brooklyn

May 23, 2013

Dr. Stephen Turner, M.D., FAAP is a physician with the Mount Sinai Doctors- Brooklyn Heights Medical Group and has been in practice for 15 years in Brooklyn Heights.  Dr. Turner sent us the below information on a recently reported outbreak of Measles in two neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Doctor shows information on blackboard: measles

By Dr. Stephen Turner, M.D., FAAP

The Department of Health has informed all physicians of a measles outbreak in Brooklyn, and this is something all Brooklynites should be aware of.  So far, there have been 34 confirmed cases – 27 in Borough Park, and 7 in Williamsburg.  All of the cases were in unvaccinated patients, and complications have included pneumonia, a miscarriage, and two hospitalizations.  There will almost certainly be more cases in the next few weeks.

What is measles?  It is a viral infection, transmitted through the air by someone who has measles coughing.  There have been case reports of people getting infected simply by walking past someone who has the disease, so it is highly contagious.  Symptoms include cough, red eyes, fever, and a red rash all over the body.  People with measles are notoriously miserable.  Although almost all cases of measles will resolve on their own, as many as 25% of children may need to be hospitalized for complications such as pneumonia.  The rate of death or serious brain damage is about 1 in 1,000.

Can it be prevented?  Yes!  The MMR vaccine, which has been in use in the U.S. for over 40 years, is approximately 95% effective after 1 dose of the vaccine, and 99% effective after 2 doses.  The recommended schedule is to receive the first dose after 1 year of age, and the second dose at age 4.  The vaccine is a live but weakened virus, and therefore a vaccinated person cannot transmit the illness.  Side effects of the vaccine include fever or a rash in a small percent of children approximately 1 week after receiving a dose.  If someone is exposed to measles, receiving the vaccine within 72 hours can decrease the risk of becoming ill.  If parents choose to forgo the vaccine, and their child is exposed, the Department of Health will recommend keeping the child home from school and daycare for three weeks.  There have been numerous large scale studies which have clearly demonstrated that the vaccine does not increase the risk of autism.

Any treatment?  No, you just have to ride it out, and use acetaminophen for fever and remain hydrated.  The illness can last up to a week.  If you think you have measles, notify your physician or local emergency room before you arrive, to minimize exposure to other people.