Measles

Measles is a virus that causes fever and a rash. It is highly contagious and anyone who is not vaccinated against the virus can get it at any age.

Although measles is rare in the United States because of high vaccination rates, it is still common in other parts of the world. Measles is common in some countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa and is occasionally brought into the Unites States by unvaccinated travelers who return with measles infection.

Recent Outbreak in Brooklyn and Queens

As of April 24, 2019, there have been 390 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since October. Most of these cases have involved members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

The initial child with measles was unvaccinated and acquired measles on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring. Since then, there have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel. People who did not travel were also infected in Brooklyn or Rockland County.

Vaccination Requirement in Brooklyn

On April 9, the Health Commissioner ordered every adult and child who lives, works or resides in the following ZIP codes and has not received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to be vaccinated:

  • 11205
  • 11206
  • 11211
  • 11249

On April 17, the Board of Health voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting the Commissioner's order and the vaccination requirement.

People who demonstrate they are immune from measles or have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving the vaccine will not need to get vaccinated.

If the Health Department identifies a person with measles or an unvaccinated child exposed to measles in one of the above ZIP codes, that individual or their parent or guardian could be fined $1,000.

You can get vaccinated at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Brooklyn (PDF), or at our immunization clinic in Fort Greene.

Measles Cases by Neighborhood, Age and Date

The following case counts are from September 1, 2018, to April 24, 2019.

Cases by Neighborhood

NeighborhoodConfirmed CasesNew Cases Since April 24, 2019
Bensonhurst1None
Borough Park55None
Brighton Beach21
Crown Heights1None
Midwood/Marine Park4None
Williamsburg32329
Flushing2None
Far Rockaway1None
Hunts Point, Longwood and Melrose11
Total390

Cases by Age

Age RangeConfirmed Cases
Under 1 year65
1 – 4 years190
5 – 18 years75
Over 18 years60
Total390

Cases by Date

MonthNew Cases
April 201994
March 2019137
February 201969
January 201934
December 201814
November 201828
October 201813
September 20181
Total390

How Measles Spreads

Measles is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. A person will be contagious four days before the rash appears and for four days after the rash appears. They are no longer contagious on the fifth day after the rash started.

The virus remains active and contagious in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually appear 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus. In some cases, symptoms may start as early as seven days or as late as 21 days.

Early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes

Three to five days after initial symptoms, a rash of red spots appears on the face that then spreads over the entire body.

Anyone can become infected with measles, but the virus is more severe in infants, pregnant women and people whose immune systems are weak. Complications of measles include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
  • Premature birth or low-birth-weight in pregnancy
  • Death

Prevention

Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. Anyone who has received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine is considered immune and highly unlikely to get measles.

MMR Vaccine

A child should get a measles vaccine on or after their first birthday. The vaccine is combined with mumps and rubella vaccines into one vaccine called MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). A second dose of MMR vaccine is recommended before children enter school at 4 to 6 years of age. Infants ages 6 to 11 months should also receive MMR vaccine before travelling internationally.

Providers serving the Orthodox communities in Borough Park and Crown Heights should administer an additional, early dose of MMR vaccine to all patients aged 6 to 11 months during the current outbreak. In Williamsburg (ZIP codes 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249), this extra dose of MMR is required under the Public Health Emergency declaration. This dose would not count toward the routine, two-dose vaccine series.

Also, providers may give children younger than 4 the routine second dose of MMR, provided it has been at least 28 days since the child received a previous dose of MMR, varicella or live intranasal influenza vaccine.

Anyone born after January 1, 1957, who has not received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine, or who does not have a blood test proving that they are already immune to measles, should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine.

For information on where you or your child can get vaccinated, call 311.

Vaccination Requirements Citywide

Side Effects

Most people who receive the MMR vaccine do not have any side effects. Some people experience mild side effects, such as fever, mild rash or swelling. Severe problems are very rare.

Vaccine ingredients do not cause autism. More than 25 articles have been published since 1999 that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as no link between the MMR vaccine and ASD in children.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no specific medicine to treat the measles virus. Most of the time, people with measles will get better on their own. For example, in some situations vitamin A may be recommended if a child is malnourished. Treatment may be given for the symptoms of the virus.

Additional Resources

More Information