If you have plans to visit family this holiday weekend, make sure to get your vaccines before you travel. New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal is urging everyone to stay up to date on measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccines and immunizations before heading out to see family for Easter or Passover.
“The measles vaccine is safe and effective, and it is the best way to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus,” Dr. Elnahal said. “If you’re planning an international trip, the World Health Organization recommends that adults or adolescents unsure of their immune status get a dose of the measles vaccine before traveling.”
Measles is spread through the air through coughs or sneezes. This is a highly contagious disease; if one person has it, up to nine of 10 people around them will also become infected if they are not protected.
Measles symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and tiny rash of red bumps on the skin that appears first on the head and works its way down the rest of the body. The virus can cause serious health complications, such as pneumonia or encephalitis, and even death.
If you display any symptoms of measles, health officials urge you to limit contact with others to prevent the potential spread.
The US has seen a surge of reported cases recently with 555 cases confirmed in 20 states just this year. This is the second largest number of cases reported in the US since measles was eliminated in 2000.
There are currently 11 cases in New Jersey associated with a second outbreak in Ocean County.
An outbreak in Israel has raised concern that Americans traveling to Israel for Passover, which is celebrated April 19-27, may be exposed to measles and could become ill if they have never had measles or have not been properly vaccinated.
“Anyone who has not been vaccinated or has not had measles is at risk if they are exposed. Two doses of measles vaccine are about 97 percent effective in preventing measles,” said Dr. Christina Tan, state epidemiologist.
Anyone who suspects they have been exposed to measles is urged to call a health care provider before going to a medical office or emergency department.
For more information about measles, contact your health care provider, or visit the New Jersey Department of Health website state.nj.us/health/cd/topics/measles.shtm.