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Doctors in CNY watching downstate measles outbreaks closely

Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital

Doctors in Central New York are keeping a close eye on the measles outbreaks in the New York City area, because they say it’s not inconceivable that the virus could make its way to upstate New York.

Officials in Brooklyn and Rockland County are dealing with measles outbreaks affecting Orthodox Jewish Communities that just won’t quit. The problem, according to Golisano Children’s Hospital infectious disease specialist Jana Shaw, is that the disease can quickly spread among unvaccinated individuals. 90% of unvaccinated people exposed will get it. And that means it could make its way to unvaccinated communities upstate.

"There are five private schools in Onondaga County alone that don’t have sufficient vaccination coverage to protect those children from measles spread," Shaw said. "So it will only take one traveler to come up here and potentially visit those unvaccinated, and we’ll see the same problem.”

Shaw said the virus wouldn’t be an issue if all children were vaccinated against the measles, but the number of people opposed to vaccinations for children continues to be an issue, even though doctors and scientists say vaccinations are safe. 

She supports legislation being considered in Albany that would end non-medical exemptions to vaccinations for all schoolchildren in the state. Measles is highly contagious and can cause pneumonia, brain swelling and death in severe cases. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97% effective in preventing the disease.