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 and 82.1% in Suffolk. Credit: Getty Images/George Frey

Health officials last week reported a case of measles in an unvaccinated child from Nassau County who is under the age of 5. This is the third case in New York State in 2024, with the other two being identified in New York City.

Here is what we know so far about this case and how to protect your family from measles:

Is there a chance other people were infected?

It's not clear how the child contracted measles but the officials said there was no indication the child had traveled outside of the United States. Officials said there was potential exposure to measles for the public and people who were in the Cohen Children’s Medical Center Emergency Department waiting room and treatment area at 269-01 76th Ave. in Glen Oaks, Queens, near the Nassau border, from 6:45 p.m. March 20 to 3:30 p.m. March 21. The hospital is contacting patients and other members of the public who were there during this time.

What can I do to ensure my family is protected against measles?

Check with your child’s health care provider to make sure they have received two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said children should get their first dose at 12 to 15 months old and the second dose between 4 and 6.

State health officials said people who were born before 1957 were probably exposed to the virus and are immune. People born between 1957 and 1971 should check with their doctors to make sure they were properly immunized.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can lead to complications such as ear infections and diarrhea, according to the CDC. 

Those at most risk of developing complications include children younger than 5, adults older than 20, pregnant women and people who have compromised immune systems.

How dangerous is the measles?

It can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. The CDC said about 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the United States who get measles is hospitalized and about 1 in 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, which is the most common cause of death from measles in young children, according to the agency.

Getting vaccinated is key to avoiding measles said Dr. Scott Svitek, a pediatrician at Allied Physician Group's Commack Pediatric Associates. 

"It is an extremely safe vaccine and measles is a devastating illness," said Svitek. "One of the greatest accomplishments of science was the development of vaccines that keep kids from getting sick and dying."

What are some common symptoms of measles?

The first symptoms appear between one and two weeks after infection. They include a high fever that may exceed 104 degrees, cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and a rash that can develop three to five days after symptoms start.

How is it spread?

Measles is highly contagious. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, measles spreads through the air. The CDC said children can get the measles by just being in a room where an infected person was two hours earlier.

A person can spread the virus even before they know they are infected, from four days before developing the rash to four days after, officials said.

Wasn’t measles eliminated in the United States?

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. But it is very common in other parts of the world, and cases can be brought here by travelers who are not vaccinated. The CDC said as of March 21, 64 measles cases were reported in 2024 in 17 jurisdictions including New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

How many children on Long Island have received their measles vaccine?

According to the New York State Department of Health, 80.9% of children in Nassau County and 82.1 % of children in Suffolk County have received their first dose of the MMR vaccine by the age of 2.

How are some people trying to avoid vaccine requirements for children?

Two Long Island cases have highlighted the lengths some people will go to sidestep vaccine requirements.

In January, officials announced Baldwin midwife Jeanette Breen had been fined $300,000 for submitting phony student immunization records to the state after it eliminated nonmedical exemptions in June 2019. Instead of giving required shots for measles, whooping cough, diphtheria and other illnesses, Breen gave about 1,500 children a homeopathic remedy marketed as an alternative to vaccines.

A nurse practitioner from Amityville, who pleaded guilty to selling fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, is also being investigated by the state Health Department. They are trying to determine whether Julie DeVuono and her Wild Child Pediatrics practice administered a broader array of false vaccinations. The agency recommended that schools probe the immunization records of any student who used her practice. 

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