State Health Department: Measles Vaccination Remains Vital to Protecting Against Highly Contagious Disease

Measles Case Confirmed in Ulster County

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 21, 2012) - In light of confirmation of a measles case in a school-aged child in Ulster County, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., advises all New Yorkers to be vaccinated against measles.

"Many people think measles is a childhood disease of the past, but it remains a highly-contagious viral disease that can cause serious health problems and even death," Commissioner Shah said. "The good news is that measles is preventable, and people who are vaccinated can protect themselves against the disease."

The current Ulster County measles case involves a child who attends a school where nearly half of the students are not vaccinated against measles. Although vaccination against measles is one of the required immunizations for school children in New York, exemptions from the requirement may be granted by a school.

The Ulster County Health Department is working with the school district to protect other school children from measles. Unvaccinated children who attend the same Ulster County school as the child with measles and unvaccinated school staff are being excluded from the school for 21 days to help prevent them from contracting or spreading the disease.

Individuals are not at risk of contracting measles if they are immune. A person is considered immune if they were born before January 1, 1957, have a history of physician-diagnosed measles, a blood test confirming immunity, OR have received two doses of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus and is spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people. Due to widespread immunization in the United States, the measles virus does not circulate in this country, but is present in some foreign countries, including some in Europe and Asia.

It is strongly recommended that anyone traveling to a country where measles is circulating be immunized before their trip; those who are not immunized could potentially contract the disease while abroad and infect other non-immunized individuals upon their return back to the U.S.

Measles symptoms usually appear in 10 to 12 days, but can occur as late as 18 days after exposure. Symptoms generally appear in stages, and may include a runny nose, cough and a slight fever. Eyes may become reddened and sensitive to light while the fever gradually rises each day, often peaking as high as 103° to 105° F. Small bluish white spots surrounded by a reddish area may also appear on the gums and inside of the cheeks. Later symptoms may consist of a red blotchy rash lasting five to six days. The rash usually begins on the face and then spreads downward and outward, reaching the hands and feet. The rash fades in the same order that it appeared, from the head to the extremities.

Although measles is usually considered a childhood disease, it can be contracted at any age. The single best way to prevent measles is to be vaccinated. Individuals should receive two doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine to be protected. The first dose should be at 12-15 months of age and the second dose should be given at four to six years of age (the age of school entry).

For additional information on measles, visit the Department of Health web page at: