Well, this isn't exactly the most uplifting news in the world, but unfortunately, it's true: It appears that the Big Apple might be experiencing an alarming health scare at the moment. TIME reports that a measles outbreak might have hit New York City sometime in the last several days. I know, I know, you're probably wondering how the hell this happened, and if city-dwellers — much like myself, SOS — are really in danger of contracting this virus.
On Feb. 23, the New York State Department of Health announced that an Australian tourist visiting New York City was confirmed to have the measles, and may have exposed the good citizens of the greatest city in the world (IMO, #SorryNotSorry) to the virus while on vacation.
The New York State Department of Health also provided a list of specific places that the tourist visited during their stay — including a few different hotels throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, among other locations — as well as the estimated times during which the individual was at those spots. If you're based in New York, or you've visited the state in the past several days, be sure to check that list to see if you've crossed paths with any potentially infected areas.
The Australian tourist's visits took place between Feb. 16 and Feb. 21, 2018, and it could very well mean that others in the same areas were potentially exposed to the measles.
If you live in NYC, you might be low-key panicking a little bit right now. But don't freak out just yet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of measles usually appear around seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Signs of the viral infection usually include a high fever, a cough, runny nose, and teary, bloodshot eyes. Small white spots, called Koplik spots, can also show up inside your mouth a couple days after the initial symptoms begin, as well as a skin rash.
According to the CDC, the rash typically presents itself first as flat red spots near the hairline, and it'll usually "spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet." The rash and fever both tend to subside after a few days, but you'll definitely want to call a doctor ASAP if you notice that you're starting to show these symptoms.
And yes, if you notice symptoms, it's important that you call first before you go to a doctor's office, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others, if you actually have it.
Now, as you might already know, measles isn't exactly something people are scared of getting in 2018. According to Mayo Clinic, because more children are given the vaccination these days, the death rates associated with measles have been falling worldwide in recent years. But even so, the viral infection does still take the lives of over 100,000 people each year, most of whom are under the age of 5.
The New York State Department of Health does point out that "the risk of developing measles is very low," especially if you've been immunized for it, but it is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can live on an infected surface for up to two hours. It's spread by "direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people," and while it's known to be a more dangerous illness for elderly people and children, it's still important to be aware of symptoms and the best ways to get treatment if you ever do contract the virus.
So, how do you prevent yourself from getting the measles?
First of all, you should definitely get vaccinated if you aren't already. Specifically, you should have two doses of the MMR vaccine in order to be fully protected from the illness, according to the CDC.
For the most part, people start vaccinations when they're about 12 to 15 months old, according to Live Science, and they're given the second dose at about 4 to 6 years of age. In the state of New York, according to their Department of Health, a measles immunization is required for any children enrolled in schools, daycare, and pre-K. But if you aren't sure if you have immunity against the measles, you can get checked at your local health care provider by getting a blood test.
Stay safe, y'all!