Professionals, community members express concerns, dismay about measles outbreak.
By Stacy Gittleman
The measles outbreak in Oakland County that stands at eight confirmed cases did not dampen Purim festivities this week in Oak Park and Southfield, yet parents, school administrators and physicians are watching for telltale symptoms of the highly contagious disease after an Israeli who was infected visited many synagogues, businesses and yeshivot right before the holiday.
Two clinics conducted by the Oakland County Health Division March 15 and today resulted in more than 200 people being vaccinated. OCHD scheduled a clinic this Shabbat at its office, but, in response to community requests for a clinic not on Shabbat, the OCHD will hold one from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday at Young Israel of Oak Park.
Also, Hatzalah Detroit, an Oak Park-based nonprofit first-responders organization, has set up a measles question-and-answer line at (248) 313-4952.
“All I can say is that as someone who has grandchildren too young to be immunized and a daughter who potentially would be much more dangerously affected by the measles than the general population, I’m horrified that this is even still an issue,” said Lisa Shevin of Oak Park. “I get that some people are concerned about the issue of parental choice, but there comes a time when the good of society as a whole needs to take precedence.”
A Southfield resident who desired anonymity said, “My main thought is it’s sad to hear [that first] patient had measles as a child so thought he was immune. He must feel so badly, and I want everyone to give him the benefit of the doubt instead of being mad at him. He wasn’t anti-vax, as far as I know, it was an innocent mistake.”
Ari Gotlib of Southfield, a board-certified emergency medicine physician, said, “This is how outbreaks start. One person comes in, spreads it before he knows he has symptoms. Then several other people get exposed who aren’t vaccinated and spread it to other people and it starts to spiral out of control. Everyone should go get vaccinated. Everyone should get their boosters if they haven’t already.
He said he will never forget the children under his care who died of measles, adding that something this preventable shouldn’t be the cause of a child’s death.
Pediatrician Lisa D. Klein of Child Health Associates with offices in Troy and Novi said the outbreak is a preventable tragedy.
She said when she was in medical school, she never saw one case of the disease and thought she would never be practicing medicine in an age where she had to worry about her patients contracting measles.
Klein said her cell and office phones are “exploding” with calls from concerned caregivers. The OCHD cautions people not to go to a doctor’s office, emergency room or urgent care to avoid exposing others. Call ahead to make arrangement prior to going.
Her practice requires all patients to be vaccinated. Still, patients come to her office not vaccinated, either because they are very young babies who have not been fully immunized or they are immunosuppressed, and this is where the risk lies in not protecting the most vulnerable children and babies in the community.
She is most concerned about complications of measles, such as encephalitis. “Medical offices will now have to order more vaccine supplies to give more doses to help decrease spread of the outbreak,” Klein explained. “Kids that are unimmunized and exposed to the measles [by going to one of the places the Oakland County Health Department listed] will now have to stay home for 21 days, which could mean 21 days of missed school and missed work for parents.”
Michigan law requires children enrolled in public and private schools, licensed day care centers and preschools to be vaccinated unless a waiver is given based on medical or religious objections. Private schools can choose not to accept waivers.
A woman who answered the phone Friday morning at Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Oak Park said it is the school’s policy that all students need to be vaccinated. The same goes for Yeshiva Beth Yehudah in Southfield, where Rabbis Yitzchok Grossbard, school dean, and Shragie Myers, executive director, said all admitted students must have their immunizations up to date to attend, barring any outstanding medical reason they could not be immunized, which must be documented and signed by a medical professional.
Farber Hebrew Day School issued a statement Friday that said, in part, that the school “has a clear policy requiring all its students to be fully vaccinated according to health department standards and timeline.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following:
• The first dose of MMR should be given on or after a child’s first birthday, ages 12-15 months.
• The second dose of MMR should be given at age 4 through 6 years.
• Adults should have one dose of MMR vaccine or know immunity.
The only time an infant 6-12 months should receive the measles vaccine is if they are traveling internationally or as post exposure prophylaxis following an exposure to the disease.
Additional vaccines pose no risk. When in doubt, vaccinate. Michigan vaccine records can be accessed by visiting the Michigan Care Improvement Registry at www.mcir.org/public.
Contributing Writer Rochel Burstyn added to this report.