Vaccination rates by age 2 for a single dose of the measles,...

Vaccination rates by age 2 for a single dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine were at 80.9% in Nassau County and 82.1% in Suffolk County, according to the state Department of Health’s most recent data. Credit: Getty Images/George Frey

A young unvaccinated child is the first confirmed measles case in Nassau County since 2019 and the third case in New York State this year, according to county and state health officials.

The child, who lives in an undisclosed Nassau community, has been hospitalized, according to state health officials, who did not elaborate on the child's condition. Health officials said they continue to investigate and have begun contact tracing. 

It's unclear where or when the child got sick, but state health officials said they don't believe the child had traveled abroad. 

Medical experts said that although this was not a cause for panic, the case comes amid declining rates of vaccination overall and an increase in measles cases nationwide.

According to the state Department of Health’s most recent data, vaccination rates by age 2 for a single dose of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine were at 80.9% in Nassau County and 82.1% in Suffolk County, rates that experts said should be at 95% for increased community protection. The state data on MMR vaccinations by the recommended age of 2 comes from medical providers.

Nassau County officials provided data from a 2023 New York State school survey that shows 95.34% of children in day care and pre-K in Nassau have been vaccinated against measles, while the rates for both public and private schools from kindergarten to 12th grade in the county remain over 99%.

All children attending day care and pre-K through 12th grade throughout the state must be immunized with MMR to attend school.

“The measles cases we are seeing in New York, around the country, and around the world, are a clear indication that our immunization rates are at a dangerously low level,” state Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a statement.

Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman said the agency was working to minimize any potential spread, and she stressed the importance of up-to-date immunizations.

“Nassau County Department of Health is closely investigating potential exposures and taking the necessary proactive steps to prevent the spread of measles,” Gelman said in a statement.

The two other cases in the state were in New York City.

“This one case is not a reason to have excessive alarm, but it does underscore that measles immunization rates have decreased," said Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. "We need to focus on increasing MMR vaccinations so that we can prevent the infection’s spread.”

Dr. Lorry Rubin, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Cohen Children's Medical Center, found the rates to be “shockingly low.”

“We're dependent on herd immunity and we're dependent on maternal immunity for the first few months of life passed in the womb to the newborn,” Rubin added. “We sort of have a small proportion of our population that are not immune to measles or receiving an MMR vaccine that still puts a lot of people at risk.” 

The number of measles cases nationwide so far this year has already surpassed all of 2023. As of March 21, there were 64 cases of measles in the United States, compared to 58 total cases for all of last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles is a highly contagious disease for anyone who has not been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, which is given in two doses, first between 12 and 15 months old, and later between ages 4 and 6. 

According to the CDC, "measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years of age." About 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized, 1 to 3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, the agency says.

Measles can be spread by direct contact with infectious droplets or airborne. The virus can live in the air for up to two hours after a person has left a room. 

People who are not immune to measles have a roughly 90% chance of contracting it.

“Measles has a way of finding people that are not immune to it,” Rubin said.

Medical experts said a rise in global cases had triggered outbreaks across the country, mostly among unvaccinated people visiting from other countries or returning from overseas. 

People are considered protected or immune to measles if they were born before 1957, have received two doses of the MMR vaccine, have had measles, or have a lab test confirming immunity, according to Nassau county health officials.

A young unvaccinated child is the first confirmed measles case in Nassau County since 2019 and the third case in New York State this year, according to county and state health officials.

The child, who lives in an undisclosed Nassau community, has been hospitalized, according to state health officials, who did not elaborate on the child's condition. Health officials said they continue to investigate and have begun contact tracing. 

It's unclear where or when the child got sick, but state health officials said they don't believe the child had traveled abroad. 

Medical experts said that although this was not a cause for panic, the case comes amid declining rates of vaccination overall and an increase in measles cases nationwide.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A young unvaccinated child is the first confirmed measles case in Nassau County since 2019 and the third case in New York State this year, according to health officials.
  • Measles is a highly contagious disease for anyone who has not been vaccinated, and according to the CDC, "measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years of age."
  • The case comes amid declining rates of vaccination overall and an increase in measles cases nationwide.

According to the state Department of Health’s most recent data, vaccination rates by age 2 for a single dose of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine were at 80.9% in Nassau County and 82.1% in Suffolk County, rates that experts said should be at 95% for increased community protection. The state data on MMR vaccinations by the recommended age of 2 comes from medical providers.

Nassau County officials provided data from a 2023 New York State school survey that shows 95.34% of children in day care and pre-K in Nassau have been vaccinated against measles, while the rates for both public and private schools from kindergarten to 12th grade in the county remain over 99%.

All children attending day care and pre-K through 12th grade throughout the state must be immunized with MMR to attend school.

“The measles cases we are seeing in New York, around the country, and around the world, are a clear indication that our immunization rates are at a dangerously low level,” state Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a statement.

Two other cases were in NYC

Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman said the agency was working to minimize any potential spread, and she stressed the importance of up-to-date immunizations.

“Nassau County Department of Health is closely investigating potential exposures and taking the necessary proactive steps to prevent the spread of measles,” Gelman said in a statement.

The two other cases in the state were in New York City.

“This one case is not a reason to have excessive alarm, but it does underscore that measles immunization rates have decreased," said Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. "We need to focus on increasing MMR vaccinations so that we can prevent the infection’s spread.”

Dr. Lorry Rubin, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Cohen Children's Medical Center, found the rates to be “shockingly low.”

“We're dependent on herd immunity and we're dependent on maternal immunity for the first few months of life passed in the womb to the newborn,” Rubin added. “We sort of have a small proportion of our population that are not immune to measles or receiving an MMR vaccine that still puts a lot of people at risk.” 

The number of measles cases nationwide so far this year has already surpassed all of 2023. As of March 21, there were 64 cases of measles in the United States, compared to 58 total cases for all of last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contagious, potentially dangerous

Measles is a highly contagious disease for anyone who has not been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, which is given in two doses, first between 12 and 15 months old, and later between ages 4 and 6. 

According to the CDC, "measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years of age." About 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized, 1 to 3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, the agency says.

Measles can be spread by direct contact with infectious droplets or airborne. The virus can live in the air for up to two hours after a person has left a room. 

People who are not immune to measles have a roughly 90% chance of contracting it.

“Measles has a way of finding people that are not immune to it,” Rubin said.

Medical experts said a rise in global cases had triggered outbreaks across the country, mostly among unvaccinated people visiting from other countries or returning from overseas. 

People are considered protected or immune to measles if they were born before 1957, have received two doses of the MMR vaccine, have had measles, or have a lab test confirming immunity, according to Nassau county health officials.

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