Experts Advise Vigilance, Vaccination as Lakewood Measles Outbreak Worsens

Nov 19, 2018

As of Nov. 19, there were 14 confirmed cases of measles in Lakewood and 13 potential cases under investigation. According to the Ocean County Health Department, the age range for the current outbreak is 6 months to 27 years old.

Health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend that the first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine be given to children at 12 to 15 months of age, with a second dose at 4 to 6 years old. “People are reminded to check their immunization records,” notes a press release from Brian E. Rumpf, director of administration and program development for the county health department.

A measles fact sheet for physicians from Hackensack Meridian Health notes that the measles vaccine is recommended for children between 6 and 11 months of age during community outbreaks or when the infant is traveling to an area where measles transmission has been documented. It also points out that airplanes recirculate air, so measles can be transmitted to susceptible individuals if a passenger has the disease.

Measles usually spreads through coughs and sneezes and can also infect through saliva and nasal secretions.

As the county health department advises, “If there is any sign of symptoms, contact your healthcare provider prior to showing up at that provider’s office so that appropriate arrangements can be made for examination or treatment.” This measure is necessary to protect the general public, as measles has an airborne contagion rate of up to 90 percent, and may linger for up to two hours beyond the time in which an infected person is in the area.

Symptoms typically develop 10 to 12 days after exposure to an infected person, and generally last from seven to 10 days. Initial symptoms include a fever, which may exceed 104 degrees, as well as a cough, runny nose, rash and inflamed eyes. Small white dots may form inside the mouth two to three days after the start of symptoms. This may be followed by a red flat rash that usually starts on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.

“Measles have a complication rate of approximately 30 percent, which means that the initial infection will cause other health problems for almost one third of those infected,” the health department explains. “Added to these frightening statistics is the data which suggests 30 percent of measles cases result in complications including pneumonia, corneal ulceration, brain scarring and even death, with infants and pregnant women being particularly susceptible to complications.”

All of the current cases in Lakewood are linked to individuals who traveled to or from Israel, which is experiencing a severe outbreak. There have also been dozens of individuals diagnosed in New York, many of them from within Orthodox Jewish communities.

According to Ocean County Public Health Coordinator Daniel E. Regenye, the number of cases would be much higher were it not for the immunity provided by those who have received the MMR vaccine. The county health department, Regenye also pointed out, has assisted in the coordination, delivery and administration of 12,400 doses of the vaccine to community providers since the onset of the outbreak.

The department has also issued a number of Health Officer Orders of Isolation and Health Officer Orders of Quarantine in an attempt to protect public health, and has provided internal training and orientation to more than 30 staff members – including administrative, clinical, health education, epidemiology and support functions – to provide for a highly coordinated and responsive effort.

Children involved with exposure to a confirmed case may be subject to an order of exclusion if unvaccinated. The department pointed out that it continues to highly encourage the exclusion of non-vaccinated children from schools, preschools and daycares in the outbreak area.

“The present measles outbreak is a true public health crisis which warrants the full attention of not only the Ocean County Health Department, but also all medical providers in the outbreak area,” concluded Regenye.

The department said it continues to communicate and coordinate daily with the state Department of Health and other healthcare providers.

Additional information is available at ochd.org, phu2.org, http://state.nj.us/health/cd/topics/measles.shtml and cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mmr/public/index.html. —J.K.-H.

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