New Jersey health officials are concerned football fans who attended the Super Bowl in Indianapolis earlier this month may have brought home more than a championship cap and a souvenir program.
State Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said Tuesday that a measles outbreak in Indiana linked to Super Bowl festivities serves as a reminder to New Jerseyans that they should be up to date on their vaccinations.
While there have been no reported cases of measles in New Jersey as a result of the Super Bowl, 15 cases have been reported in Indiana as a result of exposure that took place in downtown Indianapolis during the Super Bowl.
“Measles vaccine is 99 percent effective and the spread of the illness could have been prevented,” O’Dowd said.
Measles is a contagious virus that is very easily spread from person to person. When an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, the virus is released into the air. Anyone who hasn’t been fully vaccinated or has not had measles is at risk if they are exposed to the virus.
Measles can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis, and swelling of the brain in 20 percent of patients, especially children under five and adults older than 20. Measles infection in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, premature birth or a low-birth weight baby.
“Making sure that children of all ages are up to date on their vaccinations is one of the most important things parents can do to ensure the health of their children,” O’Dowd said. “Children are more at risk of becoming ill from vaccine-preventable diseases than the general population.”
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that before the age of two, children receive immunizations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatic B, hepatitis A, H. influenza B, pneumococcus, and rotavirus vaccines. The ACIP recommended vaccine schedule is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
However, it’s not just children who need to get vaccinated to protect themselves. “Throughout adult life, people need immunizations to protect themselves against shingles, seasonal flu, pneumococcal disease, and human papillomavirus,” O’Dowd said.
The CDC also recommends that seniors 65 and older and those age 19 through 64 with certain health conditions receive the pneumococcal vaccine. More information regarding adult vaccines can be found on the adult vaccination page at the CDC website.
With the winter being mild, the Health Department is also reminding residents that it is still flu season and it is not too late to get vaccinated. Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot every year to protect themselves, their family and co-workers. People can visit the DHSS website to find their closest flu clinic.
The CDC estimates between five percent and 20 percent of individuals get the flu each year. In New Jersey, that means between 420,000 and 1.7 million people will get the flu this year.
Nationally, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die annually due to flu complications.
“People should take common sense measures to protect themselves against the flu, including washing your hands and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough,” Health Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito said.
Those who do get the flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone and stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.
Children younger than six months of age are too young to get vaccinated and anyone who has ever had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine also should not get a flu shot.
For more on the flu and other vaccine preventable diseases visit the State of New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services' information on Influenza and the Vaccine Preventable Disease Program.