Suffolk Officials Hope To Fend Off Measles

Suffolk County officials continue to trace the activities of a visitor from Europe who was infected with measles and urge anyone who may have been in contact with that individual to contact them immediately for testing.

Meanwhile, the federal Centers For Disease Control warned over the weekend that many people who received vaccinations and think they are immune are not — a booster shot may be required.

The infected person came to the United States from Europe on April 2 to attend a workshop sponsored by Ohio State University. Though the person stayed at a dorm in Ohio while taking part in the internship, none of the 13 others who slept at the facility have tested positive. The carrier then came to Hampton Bays and visited the Bridgehampton Bank at 48 East Montauk Highway on Saturday, April 20, at about 12:15 PM. Health officials say other customers may have been exposed to the disease at that time.

The carrier then went to King Kullen, located at 52 East Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays at 2:30 PM and CVS, located at 111 South Main Street in Southampton, between 4:45 and 7 PM.

That evening, the individual began noticing symptoms and checked into Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where tests confirmed a strain of the measles virus, but not the same strain as has been identified elsewhere in the state.

The person in question is still in the area but no longer carries the risk of infecting others; he or she did from April 14 through April 22, however. During that time, anyone who came within 20 yards of the carrier, or who was in the same location up to two hours later, was at risk. “It is so highly contagious. This is a real wake up call for everyone to get vaccinated,” said Grace Kelly-McGovern, public relations director for the Suffolk County Department of Health. Anyone who visited the above locations have likely been exposed, she added.

Though there is only one case reported thus far in Suffolk, there have been hundreds in New York City, though the number has stabilized. Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued a state of emergency and made vaccinations mandatory.

In Rockland County, a sect of Hasidic Jews who do not believe in vaccinations have stymied attempts to force them to do so or keep those with measles isolated.

The national outbreak began in October, with the visit of seven travelers from Israel, and has been centered in mainly Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish areas of the country. The CDC reported that from January 1 to April 19 there were 626 confirmed cases of measles in 22 states.

On April 29, the CDC said the number of cases nationally had risen to 700.

The CDC warned that those who are vaccinated might have a false sense of complacency. Adults in the United States who were vaccinated against measles decades ago may need a new dose, depending on when they received the shot and their exposure risk. Up to 10 percent confirmed measles cases in the current outbreak occurred in people who received one or two doses of the vaccine, according to the CDC.

The measles virus is highly contagious and can cause blindness, deafness, brain damage, or death. It is currently spreading in many parts of the world.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said April 26 those who fear they are infected should call their health provider or the county before going to a public clinic to prevent infecting others. The single best way to prevent measles is to be vaccinated, Bellone added.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day and those opposed to the vaccinations have been waging a court battle. Day wants vaccinations mandatory and those not vaccinated to be kept off the public streets.

Day’s original emergency order issued March 26, which was subsequently halted by the courts, will remain in effect until May 25.

“Over the last 30 days since my original declaration, we have lost the one thing we couldn’t afford to lose, valuable time,” Day said. “With nearly 50 new confirmed cases in less than a month what we predicted has come true; this outbreak continues to rage despite the best efforts of our Department of Health.”

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