From New Years’ Day 2019 through April 11th, the United States has reported 555 cases of measles in 20 states—the second largest measles outbreak reported since the disease was eliminated in 2000. Keep reading to learn the 10 things nurses need to know about the measles outbreak:
1. Measles is brought into the U.S. by travelers who’ve been in foreign countries where the disease is prevalent—countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. It is then spread in U.S. communities via contact with pockets of unvaccinated populations.
2. Measles outbreaks, defined as three or more reported cases, are currently ongoing in Rockland County New York, New York City, New Jersey, Washington state, Michigan, and the counties of Butte County California. In addition, new cases have recently been identified in New York’s Westchester and Sullivan counties.
3. Once a person is exposed to the measles virus, it may take up to two weeks before symptoms begin to show. A person is contagious four days before the tell-tale rash appears and for four days after. Measles is an airborne virus that can be shed by those infected long before the symptoms arise.
4. There is no available antiviral therapy to cure measles—only supportive therapy for the symptoms, among which are those similar to the common cold: fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, followed by conjunctivitis and body rash. Measles can sometimes lead to more serious and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis.
5. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared a health emergency in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and is mandating unvaccinated residents to become vaccinated. Those not complying could receive violations and fines of $1,000.
6. Mayor de Blasio has sent a team of “disease detectives” into the Hasidic Community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where nearly half of the U.S. cases reported are identified.
7. Coincidentally, the New York State Nurses Association just reached an agreement with the NYC Hospital Alliance to hire more nurses to fill vacancies and add new positions.
8. Detroit is urging those Michiganders vaccinated prior to 1989 to receive a booster vaccination.
How Nurses Play a Role
9. The role of nurses in these outbreaks is education and the promotion of vaccination.
10. It is critical that frontline health care professionals are vaccinated themselves in order to prevent the further spread of the virus, particularly when treating those patients infected by the disease.