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Upstate NY Counties Monitoring Measles Outbreak


A case of measles has been confirmed in New York’s Greene County as the outbreak moves north.

The measles outbreak has been keeping health authorities on their toes, particularly in the lower Hudson Valley and parts of New York City, especially in Orthodox Jewish communities where some people have resisted vaccination.

New York State Senator Julia Salazar, a Democrat who represents the state's 18th District, chairs the Senate Committee on Women's Health. She spoke on this week’s Capitol Connection on WAMC. She encourages vaccination, calling measles a very urgent public health issue.  "In part of my own district there was a measles outbreak in the hundreds in Williamsburg and thankfully community leaders responded, saying 'it's really important to vaccinate.' I think that as far as legislation, I am supportive of Senator Vrooman's bill to repeal the religious exemption. I don't think that it should be presented as unique to a religious exemption even though it technically is in New York state, but the idea is that unless there is a medical reason to not vaccinate, it really is a public health issue and we have an obligation to protect other children who are in school, even if it means that all of us have to work together and some of us need to put aside our personal beliefs about vaccines."

CDC data indicates that between January 1st and May 3rd, 2019, 764 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 23 states, the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

Officials say there has been one case of measles attributed to Greene County. They emphasize the individual contracted measles while in Brooklyn, and has remained there since. They add there are no known potential exposures in Greene County.

Albany County officials say they have no reported cases of the disease.

The Columbia County Health Department also has no reported cases of measles:  a spokesperson who declined to go on mic says officials are engaged in "daily surveilling." They've seen an uptick in calls from concerned residents who have questions about the recommendations for the MMR vaccine.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a  Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Diagnostics Committee, recently appeared on WAMC's Medical Monday.   "Measles was very prevalent in the 1960s in the pre-vaccine era, so a lot of people may have been infected at that time, but if you're unsure if you were vaccinated, you need to see your doctor and possibly get vaccinated, if you're an adult that missed out on vaccination. There are many people that were born in that era that have natural immunity because they were infected and they're presumed to be immune. But if you are somebody that was born at the time when the vaccines were just becoming available you may have escaped natural infection, you may not be immune."

Health officials recommend children, adults and adolescents should have two doses of MMR vaccine, at least 28 days apart.

Adalja says you can be tested for immunity:   "There is a way of checking. You can do a blood test that will look for the levels of antibody, and if they are above a certain level you're said to be immune, if they're below a certain level you're said to be susceptible, so you can get that blood test done. It's often cumbersome, sometimes people will just vaccinate people irrespective of that test because it's easier just to get to the office on one visit and you get the shot and it's done with."

You can check with your county health department for information on obtaining the vaccine.

The best way to protect yourself and your children is to make sure you’re immunized against measles.  For most kids, measles protection is part of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine (MMRV) given when they’re 12 to 15 months old and again when they’re 4 to 6 years old.  Adults who are unsure of their vaccine status, should check with their health care provider, to see if a booster vaccine is recommended.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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