Potential Measles Exposure in Lake George Over Father's Day Weekend, State Health Commissioner Warns

ALBANY, NY - June 26, 2007 - A group of tourists from Quebec, Canada, who visited the Lake George Village area over the weekend of June 14-17 potentially exposed others to measles, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., cautioned today.

Quebec, Canada has been experiencing an outbreak of measles since April, with 25 cases identified to date. Two of those 25 persons spent four days in and around Lake George Village from June 14-17 during the period when they would have been contagious, even though they were not yet showing symptoms and would not have been aware they were infected.

People who previously had the measles or received two doses of measles vaccine would be considered immune. The two-dose vaccine is 99 percent effective in preventing measles. Measles vaccine administered at this time will not prevent the development of disease in persons who were exposed in Lake George, but will prevent on-going transmission if additional cases develop.

For those lacking immunity, measles is highly contagious. Symptoms usually appear in 10-12 days after exposure, although they may occur as early as seven or as late as 21 days after exposure. People who were exposed to the travelers and who lack immunity would begin experiencing symptoms about now.

Dr. Daines urged anyone who develops measles symptoms to immediately contact their health care provider. To avoid further spread of the disease, these individuals should call their physician, health care provider or emergency room before going for care, so that others in a waiting room are not exposed.

The State Health Department is advising all health care providers and hospital emergency departments to enhance surveillance for measles. A complete history should be elicited from any suspected cases, including travel history. A blood test to confirm the diagnosis should be obtained. Health care providers should report immediately by phone all suspected cases of measles to their county health department.

Measles symptoms generally appear in two stages. Early symptoms include a runny nose, cough and a slight fever. Eyes may become reddened and sensitive to light while the fever consistently rises each day. Later symptoms begin on the third to seventh days and consist of a temperature of 103-105 degrees Fahrenheit, and a red, blotchy rash lasting four to seven days. The rash usually begins on the face and spreads over the entire body. Small white spots may also appear on the gums and inside the cheeks.

Most otherwise healthy children and adults survive measles. However, measles can have serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and death. Other complications include middle ear infection, diarrhea and convulsions. Measles is more severe in infants and adults.

Measles is one of the most readily transmitted communicable diseases and is spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people, or, less frequently, by airborne transmission. Although measles is usually considered a childhood disease, it can be contracted at any age if a person has not already had measles or has not been properly vaccinated.

Measles vaccine is recommended for anyone born on or after January 1, 1957, who does not have a history of physician-diagnosed measles or confirmation of measles immunity by blood test. Two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine are recommended. The first dose should be given at 12-15 months of age. The second dose should be given at four to six years of age, for school entry, at the same time as the DTaP and polio booster doses. MMR vaccine is recommended because it provides protection against all three vaccine-preventable diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.

Measles immunization is required of all children enrolled in schools and pre-kindergarten programs. Since August 1990, college students have also been required to demonstrate immunity against measles.

For additional information about measles and immunization, visit the State Health Department Web page at www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization or the department Web site at www.health.ny.gov for county health department contact information.