Avi Cohen of Oak Park was confirmed to have measles yesterday night despite receiving MMR shots.
By Rochel Burstyn
Photos courtesy of the Cohen family
Avi Cohen, 23, of Oak Park has the measles, confirmed Monday evening. He is among the 10 additional cases confirmed after March 22, according to the Oakland County Health Division (OCHD).
He’s also one of the three of 100 people who get the required two doses of measles vaccine who will still get measles if exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Avi received both his MMR shots on schedule when he was a child. He gave the JN his vaccination records as proof.
Avi and his wife, Debbie, first became concerned when they realized their son, Reuven, 2, had been in a synagogue with his grandfather the same time as someone wth the measles. And Reuven had been running a fever that week although he was diagnosed with an ear infection and began a round of antibiotics.
Avi and Debbie were extra cautious after his exposure, so they had Reuven swabbed for measles and split their family last week for Shabbat, each taking a child to their respective parents’ home.
By March 18, however, Avi had developed a cough and fever and felt progressively worse. Meanwhile, Reuven’s measles test came back negative.
“Avi had both his immunizations so they weren’t even so worried about him getting the measles. They believed he was immune,” said his mother, Ita Leah Cohen of Birmingham. “We were just worried about my grandsons, especially the new baby [5-week-old Uriel].”
On March 20, Debbie took Reuven back to the doctor, and he was diagnosed with a double ear infection.
On Purim day, Avi woke in so much pain he couldn’t even open his eyes. Debbie rushed him to the Emergency Room at Beaumont Royal Oak. If they had suspected the measles, they would have avoided going anywhere, she says. They told doctors Avi had been exposed to measles, but he was fully vaccinated.
The Beaumont doctors did not suspect measles either. They checked Avi’s medical records, saw he’d been immunized appropriately, yet did a swab test anyway. They also did lung and chest X-rays, found nothing and said he must have “an upper-respiratory virus,” Debbie says. They sent him home.
On March 22, Reuven’s fever reappeared so Debbie took him to the doctor. As she was leaving, Avi called and told her he’d broken out with a suspicious rash over his entire body. In a panic, Debbie told the doctor, who advised her to contact OCHD immediately.
On Saturday, March 23, OCHD came to their house, swabbed the entire family and gave out extra vaccinations to extended family members. Debbie, Avi and Reuven were all up to date on their immunizations. They also gave Uriel immune-globulin (Ig) to boost his immune system because he is too young to get a live vaccine. Uriel moved to Debbie’s parent’s home temporarily while she cared for Avi and Reuven at home.
In the meantime, the entire family and extended family (who had been in contact with Avi and Reuven) tested negative. Avi, however, was quarantined until Wednesday. Debbie has no symptoms, but she remained home, too, just in case. “I see my husband is in so much pain, and I don’t want to pass that on to anybody.”
Avi teaches at Farber Hebrew Day School, where Reuven also attends, which is why Farber appeared on OCHD’s official list of places that had possible measles exposure. Yet Avi was not in school while contagious, according to an email sent by Head of School Rabbi Scot Berman.
It is likely most people at ground zero — the Orthodox communities in Oak Park and Southfield — have been exposed because of the widespread locations OCHD cited as possible exposure spots.
An update from the OCHD Monday listed more sites, including a few locations in West Bloomfield and Farmington Hills. (Go to oakgov.com/health for updates).
The OCHD says vaccination is effective within 72 hours of exposure. High-risk individuals can receive immune-globulin (Ig) treatment within six days of exposure.
The measles are being traced to a visitor from Israel, by way of New York, who came to soliticit donations throughout the Orthodox community. He was diagnosed March 13.
Ita Leah Cohen said Avi’s case proves immunizations are not 100 percent effective all the time. So, she plans to keep her younger kids home from school until the outbreak is over, even though they’re immunized.
“People who have had only one dose of MMR (particularly those vaccinated from 1957-1985) need to verify if they received a second dose,” said Phyllis Meer, RN, BSN, CPNP. “If they don’t have proof of two doses or a blood titer proving immunity, they must get another dose to boost their immunity.”
Ita Leah went to get the booster shot offered free at Young Israel of Oak Park (YIOP) on March 22, but the OCHD had run out already. She arrived early Sunday morning at YIOP for a second clinic and found a long line had formed at 9:30, a half-hour before doors opened. From March 22-24, OCHD gave 970 vaccinations.
She says everyone has been very kind and understanding.
“Nobody’s pointing fingers; blaming won’t solve anything,” she said. “We all have to be responsible, do what we can; but, ultimately, the rest is up to God.”
Debbie says she received mixed reactions. Mostly, people are offering support and bringing food.
“People who know us know we’re super careful when it comes to health issues,” Debbie said. “No one has yelled, nothing like that, but I know they’re nervous and upset.
“No one’s upset with me; they’re just scared,” she said. “Parents want to protect their families.”
Word has spread quickly and rumors are flying. Debbie was eager to set the record straight after being told about some of the stories going around.
The OCHD has said everyone who can get immunized absolutely should, but there should also be awareness there is that tiny 3 out of 100 chance that even that won’t be protection enough.
The most recent measles information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Oakland County Health Division:
Confirmed cases and vaccinations given
- 22 confirmed cases as of March 26: 21 measles cases now confirmed in Oakland County since March 13, one case in Wayne County confirmed March 26
- 970 measles vaccinations given in 3 days (March 22 – March 24)
Updated exposure dates and locations
If you were at the following locations on the dates and times listed below, you were at risk of being exposed to measles. Vaccination is available and effective within 72 hours of exposure. High-risk individuals can receive immune-globulin (Ig) treatment within 6 days of exposure. To view the full list of confirmed exposure locations, visit www.oakgov.com/health.
- Yeshiva Gedolah of Greater Detroit: 24600 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
- Congregation Shomrey Emunah: 25451 Southfield Rd, Southfield, 7:30 – 10:00 p.m.
- Bais Chabad Synagogue 15401 W 10 Mile Rd, Oak Park, 9:30 – 1:30 p.m.
- Yeshiva Gedolah of Greater Detroit: 24600 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park, 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.
- Berkley Urgent Care: 3270 Greenfield Rd, Berkley, Noon – 4:00 p.m.
- One Stop Kosher Food Market: 25155 Greenfield Rd., Southfield, Oak Park, 1:45 – 4:30 p.m.
- Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak – Emergency Department: 3601 W. 13 Mile Rd., 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Congregation Yagdil Torah: 17100 W 10 Mile Rd, Southfield, 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 7:00 – 9:45 p.m.
- Dorfman Funeral Home: 30440 West 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, 2:00 – 5:30 p.m.
- Dovid ben Nuchim: 14800 Lincoln St, Oak Park, 8:30 – 11:30 p.m.
- Yeshiva Beth Yahuda: 15751 Lincoln Dr, Southfield, 8:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. – 12:45 a.m.
- Ohr HaTorah Synagogue: 15150 W. 10 Mile Rd, Oak Park, 8:00 – 11:30 a.m. and 2:45 – 5:30 p.m.
- Aldi: 26300 Greenfield Rd, Oak Park, All Day
- Kollel Institute of Greater Detroit: 15230 Lincoln St., Oak Park, 8:20 – 11:20 a.m.
- Meijer: 5150 Coolidge Hwy., Royal Oak, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
- One Stop Kosher Food Market: 25155 Greenfield Rd., Southfield, Oak Park, Noon – 3:30 p.m.
- Pointview Products: 46986 Liberty Dr., Wixom, 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Ohr HaTorah Synagogue: 15150 W. 10 Mile Rd, Oak Park, 7:00 – 11:00 p.m.
- Yeshiva Beth Yahuda: 15751 Lincoln Dr, Southfield,10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Oakland County Health Division offices in Southfield and Pontiac are open Monday, 8:30 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. and Tuesday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
- North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34 East, Pontiac
- South Oakland Health Center, 27725 Greenfield Road, Southfield.
- Young Israel of Oak Park, 15140 W 10 Mile Rd., Oak Park, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. March 27-29
- The Wayne County Health Department offers walk-in vaccination at 33030 Van Born Road, March 28 and 29 from 8 – 11 a.m. and 12:30 – 4 p.m. and on March 27 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 3:30 – 7 p.m. Call 734-727-7101 for more information.
Contact your health care provider for measles vaccine availability.
Read more on the measles outbreak: