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Measles outbreak in Wyoming County Mennonite community appears contained

Officials from the Wyoming County and state health departments are continuing a collaboration aimed at containing an outbreak of measles in a Mennonite community there.

Wyoming County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory J. Collins said there haven't been any new confirmed cases of measles, apart from the five cases confirmed this week in the Mennonite community.

"We continue to work with the New York State Department of Health as far as following up on any potential contacts, but there is nothing else new as far as any new cases," Collins said Friday.

The state health department has issued an advisory to regional healthcare providers to notify the state of any new measles cases and the potential for exposures.

"This situation involves an age range from early adolescence to early 20s, so they're not young children," Collins said of the outbreak in Wyoming County.

"As long as they're not immunocompromised, adults with measles tend to have less severe illness than younger children do," Collins added.

Measles is a serious respiratory disease that causes those who contract it to break out in a splotchy red rash and high fever. Other symptoms include a persistent cough, runny nose and watery eyes. Measles is highly contagious. The symptoms tend to appear 10 to 12 days after an initial exposure to someone who has already contracted the disease.

Collins said the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease is through vaccination, which presents a challenge for those in isolated communities.

Measles outbreaks have not been common in more than a generation in the state.

"We have not, in the 20 years I've been involved here, had a measles case," Collins said.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said the last confirmed case of measles in Erie County was in 2018, when an Eastern European immigrant to the region came down with symptoms.

"We've worked with all of the emergency departments in Erie County to … alert them that if person (reports symptoms) to place the patient in isolation and call the New York State health department," Burstein said.

"We're always prepared to offer post-prophylactic exposure for measles, if that's needed," Burstein added.

In the most recent case in Erie County, she said, the county health department conducted an appropriate investigation to find out who else may have been exposed to the patient, after which isolation precautions were taken.

"We even asked family members to stay in isolation until the incubation period was over," Burstein said.

Anyone who thinks they are experiencing symptoms of measles should call ahead to an emergency department and let the triage person know they think they may been exposed, she said.

Those who are not sure if they've ever been vaccinated against measles can take an antibody test to check for immunity.

Better yet, Burstein said, just get a measles vaccine.

"It's very safe and very effective. Even if you had one 20 or 30 years ago, you may no longer have the antibodies. But the risk of getting measles after a vaccination is very low," she said.

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