If you're traveling during the upcoming Passover and Easter holidays, make sure your measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccinations are up to date, state officials said.

State Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal said that is a simple step that can help stop the spread of measles, which is up to 555 reported cases nationwide including 11 cases in Ocean County. Two cases in Monmouth County are connected to exposure to Ocean County residents.

The numbers are higher outside of New Jersey. As of Monday in New York, there are 186 confirmed cases  in Rockland County and 329 confirmed cases in Brooklyn and Queens. Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world including areas in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa, according to the CDC.

“The measles vaccine is safe and effective, and it is the best way to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus,” Elnahal said. “If you’re planning an international trip, the World Health Organization recommends that adults or adolescents unsure of their immune status get a dose of the measles vaccine before traveling.”

Elnahal said the outbreak in Israel has raised concern that Americans traveling to Israel for Passover, which is celebrated April 19-27, may be exposed to measles and could become ill if they have never had measles or have not been properly vaccinated. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to nine of 10 people around them will also become infected if they are not protected.

The initial outbreak in Lakewood last fall began with the return of a traveler from Israel.

Symptoms of measles include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Measles can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). In pregnant women, measles can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, or a low infant birth weight.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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