About a month ago, the national measles outbreak hit close to home at Bard College. The Annandale-on-Hudson campus confirmed in a press release that a student was infected; it was later revealed that the same student had traveled to Penn Station via Amtrak — putting countless others at risk.
Fortunately, that student “recovered fully and quickly,” according to Mark Primoff, press contact for Bard. The school “passed the incubation period for new cases, so there is no measles on the Bard College campus,” said Primoff.
Measles was believed to have been eradicated in the United States, but a February 2014 case from Orange County and a warning that same year to Palisades Mall shoppers understandably had Hudson Valley residents worried. The Dutchess County Department of Health posted a modified version of the Center for Disease Control’s National Immunization Program’s FAQ page.
Most of the cases this year are centered in an outbreak in Southern California, genetically similar to one that killed 110 people in the Philippines last year. New York has only reported three cases; as Capital New York noted, obtaining childhood vaccination exemption is harder by New York law than California’s.
Recognizing the symptoms and seeking medical help will prevent potential complications from the measles virus, including encephalitis or potentially fatal swelling of the brain, ear infections, and pneumonia. The CDC estimates one or two in every 1,000 children who contract measles will die from it.
Senior CDC Press Officer Benjamin N. Haynes said that, though the U.S. healthcare infrastructure is sufficient to deal with these cases, those who are not vaccinated are at risk.
The good news is that the World Health Organization says that 91% of the United States population is adequately vaccinated against measles. If you received the vaccination as a child, chances are you’re safe from the disease.
“The major thing is that people who are susceptible get vaccinated because it’s completely preventable,” said Stu Feinstein from the HealthQuest Medical Practice at Vassar Brothers’ Hospital. “There’s nothing else specific you can do to prevent measles.”
Feinstein added that frequent hand washing, maintaining general health, eating properly, and most other common-sense health measures will help prevent measles as well as other communicable diseases.
“This outbreak is slowing down a little bit. I don’t think there’s any special risk in our area compared to other parts of the country,” said Feinstein.