Nearly four weeks after a wide range of Lakewood institutions snapped into action in an attempt to stem the ongoing measles outbreak, the virus has continued to spread, with the number of confirmed and suspected cases both steadily rising.
Dr. Jeffrey Kaminetzky, director of internal medicine for the CHEMED medical center, said that while much has been done to fight the spread of the highly contagious virus, more steps can be taken.
“It goes without saying that anybody who is not vaccinated should get immunized right away, but besides that, there are other precautions that some individuals can take,” he told Hamodia.
While the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine has been available for decades, those who received it between 1963 and 1967 were immunized with a vaccine that has since been proven far less effective than the “live” vaccine introduced later.
“The vaccine that was developed later stimulates more of an immune response, and if you got the shot in those [earlier] years, you may not have the antibodies to fight measles,” said Dr. Kaminetzky. “If you got the vaccine in those years, you should definitely contact your doctor and get the MMR [vaccine] again.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, confirmed cases stand at 14, with 13 more under investigation, according to the Ocean County Department of Health. With reports of each case, a new list is released of public locations where infected people have been while contagious. The list has grown to include doctors’ offices, restaurants, simchah halls, the Satmar Beis Medrash on Forrest Avenue, and last week added Beth Medrash Govoha’s Bais Shalom. Last Thursday, the Motor Vehicle Commission in Toms River closed temporarily after being informed that an infected individual had been in the building.
The virus is airborne and highly contagious. As such, anyone in the area for some two hours after an infected person has been on the premises could have been exposed.
“The problem is that you usually only hear about an exposure when it is too late to vaccinate, so it is important to be proactive,” said Dr. Kaminetzky.
Despite the rising numbers of cases both in Lakewood and in Jewish communities around the New York area, he said that people who have been immunized had little reason for concern, as immunization carries 97 percent effectiveness. Yet some on immune-suppressant medications such as Purixan can be at risk despite being vaccinated.
“Even if you are vaccinated but are taking long-term prednisone or other immune-suppressant medication, you are at risk of contracting the disease and should try to avoid exposure if possible,” said Dr. Kaminetzky.
As the virus has spread, more schools have tightened their policies on vaccination, with many sending non-vaccinated children home until they are properly immunized. Over the past weeks, thousands have been immunized in mass vaccination campaigns in the area.
The state Health Department would not comment on whether any of the 13 people who have been diagnosed with measles had been vaccinated.
“Vaccines have wiped out most of these types of illnesses and they’ve been proven safe,” said Dr. Kaminetzky. “Not so long ago people were struck with measles, polio and all sorts of dangerous and debilitating sicknesses. It’s important to realize that vaccines are what have basically wiped out all of these sicknesses.”