The New York City Department of Health is investigating a measles outbreak in Manhattan and the Bronx after 16 individuals tested positive for the contagious disease.
Officials at the Health Department reported on Friday that seven adults and nine children were infected with measles, a communicable disease characterized by rashes that often begin on the face and spread to the rest of the body and is often accompanied by fever, coughing, red eyes and runny nose, and urged New Yorkers to get everyone in their household vaccinated.
"The most important thing people need to do is receive the measles vaccine. It's given as the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine," said Jane Zucker, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Immunization. "Normally, a child gets their first dose of MMR vaccine at 12 months of age, and then, they'll get the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age."
Health experts advise everyone to get vaccinated because individuals infected with measles may develop complications such as pneumonia, miscarriage and brain inflammation. One in 1,000 individuals who get measles also dies from it.
Notably, two of the children who were infected in the outbreak were not vaccinated because their parents decided not to. One parent said of hearing talks about MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine causing autism.
Marguerite Mayers, an infectious disease specialist at the Children's Hospital of Montefiore in New York, however, said that the MMR vaccine-autism link isn't true. "I am concerned that parents have opted not to vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons, and that may be increasing our pool of susceptibles," Mayers said. "The attribution of autism to the MMR has been disproved in many forms over the past 20 years."
The Health Department is working with pediatric-care facilities in Manhattan and the Bronx to identify children who have not received MMR shots and have them vaccinated and although children normally get their second dose of the vaccine between four and six years of age, the Health Department urge those who live in affected areas to have their children get their second dose immediately regardless whether or not they fall within the ideal age range.
Health officials also said that adults who are unsure of their vaccination history can be revaccinated or get a blood test to see if they are immune to the virus as several adults who were infected in the outbreak thought they had already been vaccinated.
Health officials have likewise advised those who suspect they have measles to call their doctor first before leaving to avoid spreading the disease.
"People who contract the measles virus can spread the infection for four days before developing a rash, and for four days after the rash sets in," the Health Department said in a statement. "Measles can spread easily through the air to unprotected individuals. If you suspect you have measles, call and explain your symptoms to your doctor or medical provider BEFORE leaving to avoid exposing others to the measles virus."