Public Health Advisory
Distributed by the New Jersey Department of Health
Subject: Measles Holiday Travel Advisory
As you may know, there have been multiple outbreaks of measles in the United States. As of April 11, a total of 555 cases have been reported in 20 states, including 13 cases in New Jersey, in 2019. This is the second-greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000. The majority of measles cases have been reported in New York City and New York state, and are primarily among unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities and associated with travelers who brought measles back from Israel.
The upcoming Passover holiday begins the evening of Friday, April 19 and ends the evening of Saturday, April 27. This year, Passover coincides with Easter which is on Sunday, April 21. In addition, many other social events may be scheduled over the next several months (e.g., graduations, weddings). All of these celebrations provide opportunities for measles to spread as people travel and congregate away from home.
Families may travel to resorts, hotels, or take cruises for the holiday. And there will likely be an influx of international travelers before Passover, including many from Israel where measles is circulating. Popular destinations include New York, New Jersey, Florida, Las Vegas, Arizona, and Washington, D.C.
Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Healthcare professionals should be vigilant about measles-
. Ensure all patients are up to date on MMR vaccine.
. Consider measles in patients presenting with febrile rash illness and clinically compatible measles symptoms (cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis). Patients exposed to measles while traveling for Passover could begin to develop symptoms between late April and mid-May.
. Ask patients about recent travel internationally or to domestic venues frequented by international travelers, as well as a history of measles exposures in their communities.
. Promptly isolate patients with suspected measles to avoid disease spread and immediately report the suspect measles case to the health department.
. Obtain specimens for testing from patients with suspected measles, including viral specimens for genotyping, which can help determine the source of the virus. Contact the local health department with questions about submitting specimens for testing.
Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 of 10 people around them will also become infected if they are not protected. The virus can cause serious health complications, such as pneumonia or encephalitis, and even death.
CDC continues to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated on schedule with the MMR vaccine. People 6 months and older should be protected with the vaccine before leaving on international trips.
For additional information and resources on measles please visit the New Jersey Department of Health’s measles website (https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/topics/measles.shtml) or CDC’s measles website (https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html).