Measles outbreaks in surrounding communities, including confirmed cases in Westchester County, have raised concerns for the community, as well as questions about how to protect yourself and those you love.
“Measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases,” says Debra Spicehandler, MD, Co-Chief of Infectious Diseases at Northern Westchester Hospital. “My advice? If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated immediately. And, avoid high-risk areas, if possible, especially if you have an unvaccinated baby.”
According to the National Center for Health Research, one person with measles can infect 12 to 18 others, in an unvaccinated population, before they even know they’re sick. Why? It’s airborne. Also, the virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. So, if you’re not vaccinated and breathe contaminated air or touch an infected door, you’re at risk. This is why it’s so important to get vaccinated – wearing a mask will not prevent you from getting sick. Anyone who has not been vaccinated can get the vaccine free through the Westchester County Department of Health. Call 914-995-5800 for an appointment.
Here are Dr. Spicehandler’s tips on the top five things you need to know about measles:
• You may not even know you’re sick:
Here are symptoms to watch out for: The measles virus incubates for the first two weeks after infection, which means you won’t have any signs or symptoms. Even when you begin to have symptoms, you may mistake them for a common cold. A cough, runny nose, sore throat, or conjunctivitis is common during the first stage. When the virus progresses, usually three days after symptoms begin, you may notice a diffused itchy rash that starts on the face and progresses downward toward the hands and feet. Fever is also common during this stage. Accompanying the rash and fever, people often notice bluish-white spots in the mouth. You are contagious four days before the rash starts and up to four days after the rash appears.
• Call your doctor:
If you believe you or a loved one was exposed, or if you have symptoms, call your doctor, but do NOT go into a healthcare facility unannounced. Your doctor’s office, or community hospital, likely has plans in place to treat measles, but there are protocols in place to ensure others don’t get sick. Please call ahead before entering one of these facilities.
• If you were exposed, you have three days to get vaccinated:
After this time period, a vaccine is not effective. Typically, you should avoid all contact with others for 21 days, as it’s still possible for symptoms to develop during this time. Speak to your doctor or local health department to discuss when it is safe to go back to work, school or other public places.
• Revaccination is “a thing” but you probably don’t need it:
If you received two doses of the MMR vaccine or if you were born before 1957, you should be fully protected against the measles. However, it’s not harmful to receive additional doses if you’re unsure of your status. If you’re concerned, ask your doctor for a blood test to check your immunity levels.
• If you’re not vaccinated you’re putting others at risk for serious complications:
For those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, or babies under six months old, the measles can be devastating. The MMR vaccine is a live (weakened) virus vaccine, so these individuals cannot receive it. However, you have other options. Protect yourself (and baby) by making sure everyone who enters your home is vaccinated, get your titers checked (they identify the amount of antibodies in a person’s blood), practice good hand hygiene, and avoid high-risk areas. If you fall into one of these categories and have been exposed to the measles, you may benefit from a temporary vaccine called immunoglobulin. It’s best to speak to your healthcare provider to explore your options.
Info here via a release courtesy of Northern Westchester Hospital
About Northern Westchester Hospital
Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH), a member of Northwell Health, provides quality, patient-centered care that is close to home through a unique combination of medical expertise, leading-edge technology, and a commitment to humanity. Over 650 highly-skilled physicians, state-of-the-art technology and professional staff of caregivers are all in place to ensure that you and your family receive treatment in a caring, respectful and nurturing environment. NWH has established extensive internal quality measurements that surpass the standards defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA) National Hospital Quality Measures. Our high-quality standards help to ensure that the treatment you receive at NWH is among the best in the nation. For more information, please visit www.nwhc.net and connect with us on Facebook