Health Update – Important Information about Measles

18 Apr 2019

Dear Community Leader,

As members of your community welcome out-of-town guests and travel to gatherings with friends and family for Pesach, the Orthodox Union encourages you to share this important health information in light of the recent measles outbreak.

1. Keeping our Kids Safe 

According to the CDC, measles is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads to others through coughing and sneezing. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.  Measles can be serious.  It can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death.  We want to take this opportunity to reiterate the position articulated by the OU and RCA regarding the vital importance of timely vaccinations for all of our children in order to prevent the spread of disease.  You can read that statement here.

2. Understanding the impact on Adults

In addition to properly vaccinating healthy children to prevent disease, adults can also take steps to avoid contracting and spreading the measles virus.

Even if you were vaccinated, protection from childhood vaccines can wear off over time.  Some people have been vaccinated but only received one dose and need additional doses to stay protected.  If you were born after 1957, even if you were vaccinated, you might not be protected.  In fact,  If you don’t have access to your personal immunization records, you may not know if you have proper immunity and may need to get the vaccine again.  Only written, dated records of vaccination are considered valid.  Self-reported doses and history of vaccination provided by a parent or other caregiver are not considered to be valid.

Please contact a medical professional if you think you may need a booster.  Your doctor may recommend a “titer” test or a vaccination. A titer test is a blood test that checks for the presence of certain antibodies in the blood stream to determine whether you’re immune to a specific disease, such as measles. It is important to note that there is no harm in giving MMR vaccine to a person who may already be immune to one or more of the vaccine viruses. Here is more information, including a schedule of adult vaccinations:

3. Staying Safe During the Chag

The following message was sent to Orthodox shuls in NY and NJ last week at the request of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, and we now share it with the broader community.

As you are likely aware, New York and other areas are currently facing a measles outbreak affecting the Jewish community in particular. We are therefore requesting that leaders share the following statement with their community members:

Passover is a time when we gather with families and friends in close contact. The NY State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, who has worked very closely with Jewish communities since the measles outbreak began, is concerned that if we are not careful, holiday gatherings could serve to promote the further spread of measles among our loved ones.  To protect our families and friends, we are asking that anyone who is sick to please stay home and away from those who may not be vaccinated or are at high risk, such as pregnant women, babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and those who have compromised immune systems.

In addition, we are asking you to be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles.  Symptoms usually appear about 10 to 12 days after a person has been around someone with measles. The first symptoms are usually high fever, cough, runny nose, and red watery eyes and then a rash that appears 2 to 4 days after the fever begins. If a family member or friend develops any of these symptoms, it is critical that you call the local health department right away.  Steps should be taken to immediately isolate the individual, so that we help protect others from getting sick.  If medical attention is needed, please call ahead and ask for instructions before you go to a doctor, so that you don’t expose others at the medical facility.

Our goal is for everyone to remain safe and healthy throughout Passover and after.

As an additional resource, we are providing a letter that was composed for the Young Israel of Woodmere and shared in coordination with our partners at YU’s Center for the Jewish Future & the RCA by Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt and Dr. Eddie Reichman.

Thank you for helping to keep our communities safe and healthy.  Chag Kasher v’Sameach