By Andrew Wroblewski
Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport) understands that there can be religious and philosophical differences from person-to-person. He understands that some parents are skeptical of having their children vaccinated for those very same reasons.
But on Feb. 5 as Spencer and other officials gathered to address the recent measles outbreak currently affecting the United States, Spencer left those people with one message.
“The decision that you make does not only impact you and your family, but it impacts the entire community,” Spencer said. “The message is very simple: get vaccinated. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk.”
In January 2015, the number of confirmed cases of measles surpassed the number of diagnosed cases of measles during an entire topical year, according to a press release issued by Spencer’s office. There have been 102 reported cases spanning 14 states from coast to coast, including New York – but not yet in Suffolk County.
“The vast majority of cases,” Spencer said at a recent press conference held at Huntington Hospital, “were people who were unvaccinated.”
The measles infection is typically apparent within 10-14 days of exposure and can include high fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes, tiny white spots inside the mouth and a skin rash that is made up of large red, flat botches beginning on the face and spreading downward. Those most at risk to the infection are children under 5 years old, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals.
“Measles is preventable and measles is highly contagious,” Suffolk County Health Commissioner James Tomarken said. “There are estimates that, if you are in a room, you’re unvaccinated and you’re with someone who has measles, you have a 90 percent chance of getting the measles. It lingers in the air for two hours and on surfaces for two hours.”
Suffolk County has yet to have a confirmed case of the measles in 2015, Tomarken said, and in the last 17 years there have been just four cases of the infection.
The concern, he added, is that one in 12 children is not receiving their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine on time.
“When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people, outbreaks are more likely to occur,” County Executive Steve Bellone said in a press release. “We are advising everyone in Suffolk County to do their part in keeping their families and community safe by making sure they and their children have received all recommended immunizations.”