Why is NJ Still Seeing Diseases We Should be Protected Against?
New Jersey has had four confirmed cases of measles so far in 2018, with another case of the infection under investigation in Ocean County.
In 2017 and 2016, the state recorded a total of more than 80 cases of mumps, more than 900 cases of chicken pox, and more than 1,000 cases of whooping cough.
Vaccinations aimed at essentially eliminating these diseases have been around for years, and officials recommend them for people of all ages, but instances continue to pop up in the Garden State.
While vaccines are not perfectly effective in preventing the diseases they target, medical experts believe any outbreaks or random cases are more likely linked to residents failing to keep up-to-date on protection.
"Some people do choose not to get vaccinated ... and that becomes a problem," said Dr. Ted Louie, an infectious disease expert with the Medical Society of New Jersey.
"We all believe that if we had close to 100 percent vaccination rates, these outbreaks would probably go away," Louie said.
New Jersey's four measles cases are linked to international travel, the state Department of Health said.
In a June 2018 advisory, warning residents of an individual who may have exposed others to measles, the Department said two doses of the measles vaccine (MMR) are about 97 percent effective in preventing the disease that can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain.
Measles is not a threat, doctors say, to individuals born before 1957, whether or not they've contracted measles. They were exposed enough to the disease decades ago and should not fear an infection today.
Those who received an early version of the vaccine in the 1960s, though, would benefit from a booster.
Vaccine protection fades with time for pertussis, or whooping cough. A booster known as Tdap is recommended for preteens, teens and adults. It can replace one of the tetanus shots an individual is told to receive every 10 years.
In 2018, New Jersey's seen nearly 150 cases of pertussis. Its effects are more severe among the younger population.
"We'd like to think that everyone around us is vaccinated, but given the couple of outbreaks that we've had, we know that is not necessarily the case," said Dr. Tanaya Bhowmick, assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Bhowmick noted the Tdap vaccine is also recommended for women during each pregnancy.
Non-vaccinated individuals interested in protection, Bhowmick said, should talk to their doctor. Doses of the MMR vaccine must be separated by at least 28 days.