Measles makes no  comeback … for now

HUDSON–While the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported 704 confirmed individual cases of measles in 22 states from January 1 to April 26 this year—none of them have been in Columbia County.

The Columbia County Department of Health’s Communicable Disease unit “is doing daily surveilling” of the situation in connection with the recent nationwide outbreak, according to an April 30 press release issued by the Health Department in response to an inquiry by The Columbia Paper.

The department has experienced “a slight increase in calls from residents with questions about the recommendations for the [measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)] vaccine,” the release said.

Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) Infection Control Coordinator Specialist Kelly Sackett said by phone this week that she knows of just one recent “rule/out case” in a sick child that turned out not to be measles.

Ms. Sackett said she works to help healthcare providers become more aware of measles signs and symptoms so any potential cases can be quickly isolated.

States that have reported measles cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.

In New York State, cases have been reported in Rockland County and New York City, according to the CDC website (

The 704 total is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994. Measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

These outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring. That’s why the CDC recommends that people make sure they are vaccinated against measles before traveling internationally, says the website.

According to CMH Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. John L. Ho, hospital data about how many children or adults are immunized against measles is not available, but is rather a matter between patients and pediatricians or physicians. “There is no national registry,” he said in a phone interview.

Columbia County Department of Health (CCDOH) Public Information Officer Patricia Abitabile told The Columbia Paper that according to department records, which date back to 1992, the latest measles cases here occurred in 1997, when there were two.

CCDOH keeps records of how many immunizations it administers annually. In 2013, the office administered 91 vaccinations to adults and children, in 2014–58, in 2015–65, 2016–72 and 2017–31, according to the department’s annual reports. Data for 2018 is not yet available, Ms. Abitabile said.

In an April 29 story in The New York Times by Donald G. McNeil, Jr., CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, “More than 94% of American parents vaccinate their children against measles and other diseases… About 100,000 children in this country under age 2 have not been vaccinated,” making them vulnerable in this outbreak.

The CDC defines measles as “a highly contagious virus that starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat, followed by a rash that spreads all over the body.”

Before the rash sets in is when measles is the most contagious, said Dr. Ho, noting that measles “is a respiratory tract virus spread by breathing, coughing and sneezing.”

Measles virus can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area, according to the CDC.

If not immunized, everyone is susceptible to measles and a small percentage may experience “neurologic complications 10, 20 or 30 years down the line,” said Dr. Ho.

CDC recommends routine childhood immunization for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) starting with the first vaccine dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age or at least 28 days following the first dose.

People who are born during or after 1957 who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, says the CDC.

There is no specific antiviral therapy for measles. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms and address complications such as bacterial infections.

During this National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 27 through May 4, the CCDOH does have the MMR vaccine available.

This is the 25th anniversary of NIIW. Since 1994, hundreds of communities across the U.S. have joined to celebrate the critical role vaccination plays in protecting children, communities, and public health.

CCDOH vaccinations are available to individuals with participating insurances, the cost to all others is $95/vaccination. Two vaccinations one month apart are recommended for immunity. Immunization clinics are held every Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m. by appointment at the county Health Department, on the first floor of 325 Columbia Street in Hudson, 518 828-3358.

The CCDOH encourages concerned residents with internet capability to visit the New York State Department of Health website or Centers for Disease Control website These resources have the latest up-to-date information on measles outbreaks in the United States, recommended vaccination guidelines, and protection for international travel, said the CCDOH release.

There is currently legislation in both the state Senate (S2994) and Assembly (A2371) that would repeal provisions relating to exemption from vaccination due to religious beliefs and provide for repeal of all non-medical exemptions from vaccination requirements for children.

Current state law requires all children in New York to receive immunizations for poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, HiB, hepatitis B, and varicella. The law provides an exemption from the immunization requirements if a physician certifies that the immunization may be detrimental to a child’s health.

The new law cites information from the CDC that “sustaining a high vaccination rate among school children is vital to the prevention of disease outbreaks, including the reestablishment of diseases that have been largely eradicated in the United States, such as measles.”

The new law says that “according to state data from 2013-2014, there are at least 285 schools in New York with an immunization rate below 85%, including 170 schools below 70%, far below the CDC’s goal of at least a 95% vaccination rate to maintain herd immunity. This bill would repeal exemptions currently found in the law for children whose parents have non-medical objections to immunizations.”

The bill is currently in the Health Committees in both the Senate and Assembly. This is just the first step in passing the law, according to the office of Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th).

As the measles outbreak continues to spread in New York City and neighboring counties, we must do more to protect the health and safety of our families. This starts with ensuring everyone who is medically able to do so gets vaccinated. I support legislation that would eliminate all non-medical vaccine exemptions (A.2371) so we can better protect vulnerable individuals–including those who are immunocompromised–and promote a healthier New York State,” Assemblymember Barrett said in a statement this week.

To contact Diane Valden email

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