New York City Declares Health Emergency As Measles Outbreak Continues

Nora Nguyen
April 12, 2019

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city would require unvaccinated individuals living in certain areas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to receive the measles vaccine in response to one of the largest measles outbreaks in decades.

"We will consider [forcible vaccinations] on a case-by-case basis", said mayoral spokeswoman Marcy Miranda, adding that the drastic measure is "not our first choice".

There have been almost 300 cases of measles in the city, particularly concentrated in Orthodox Jewish communities in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Buzzfeed News reports.

The CDC has said that in the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, almost all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age and that an estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year.

According to New York City's Health Department, "five cases, including the initial case of measles, were acquired on a visit to Israel".

The order covers people who live in four ZIP codes of a Brooklyn neighborhood where more than 250 people have gotten measles since September. Measles is easily preventable with the safe and effective MMR vaccine.

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In a "measles party", every child becomes a carrier out in the world, allowing the disease to find new carriers and continue to spread to vulnerable people - babies too young to get vaccinations and people with compromised immune systems.

"I understand that parents may be afraid of getting their children vaccinated", health commissioner Barbot said.

Since 1963, "widespread use of measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99% reduction in measles cases compared with the pre-vaccine era", the CDC said.

The nation's largest metropolis is just one of many cities grappling with the return of measles, often fostered by "anti-vaxxer" sentiment that causes parents to forgo the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Officials there banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces last month.

This is almost an eight-fold increase in measles cases reported since previous year, with 18,407 cases in 2018 compared with 2,428 cases in 2017. According to the deputy mayor for Health and Human Services, Dr. Heminia Palacio, citizens should not take measles lightly as it is a very unsafe disease that can cause death in some cases.

"There is no religious exemption on measles", Gary Schlesinger, CEO of Parcare Community Health Network, told CBS New York.

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"As a pediatrician, I know the MMR vaccine is safe and effective".

This is the largest outbreak of the measles that New York City has experienced since 1991, according to Barbot, and its spread represents a major spike over the two infections that plagued New Yorkers in 2017.

The city has also threatened to shut down yeshivas, or traditional Jewish religious schools, if they do not follow an order to keep unvaccinated children out of class.

The order is signed to remain in effect until the next meeting of the New York City Board of Health on April 17 at which time "it may be continued or rescinded by the board".

Since January, the disease has been reported in 19 U.S. states.

AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe and Associated Press writers Robert Bumsted and Mary Esch in Albany, New York, contributed. "So there's no financial reason not to get this vaccine".

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People with highly weakened Immune System are at higher risk of getting infected apart from newborns. In the US , patients in IL and New Jersey have also been reported, as well as others in NY .

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