Measles Outbreak 2019: NYC announces a Public Health Emergency


Some Orthodox Jewish residents say refusing measles vaccines is a part of their religious belief, but on the streets of Williamsburg there is also strong support for vaccinations and worries that the outbreak might spread.

While none of the infected children attend public schools or childcare programs, the Health Department is still in the process of gathering the information necessary to identify any locations where these children may have exposed others.

It stands mandatory for the unimmunized children and adults to get proper vaccinations to even prove it to medical exemptions.

The kids, who were not vaccinated, appear to have been exposed to measles in Rockland County and Brooklyn where there have been ongoing outbreaks. One of them was Cindy Scher, mother of four children age 7 to 17, all of whom have been vaccinated.

New York City's emergency action, which Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged was "unusual" and driven by "the sheer extent of the crisis", has seen health officials intensify their fight in the Williamsburg and Borough Park neighborhoods, which have reported more than 285 measles cases since October, compared to two in all of 2017.

Most of this year's measles cases in New Jersey have been linked to an outbreak in Ocean and Monmouth counties, the DOH found, and many originated with travelers who had been infected overseas.

Residents are urged to communicate the importance of being fully vaccinated against measles with parents and guardians.

It can lead to death, brain swelling and pneumonia. Epidemiologists have chronicled how worldwide travel by Orthodox Jews to outbreak areas, closely interrelated Orthodox social networks, and high numbers of Orthodox children at ages most susceptible to a highly contagious disease are key factors in the spread of diseases of this kind (see here and here).

As anti-vaccination movements continue to rise, Coffey explained that the widespread opposition to vaccination is mainly based in false news about side effects.

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"There should be policies to protect people's different views", Gruber said.

Vaccinations are one of the most powerful tools we have for protecting and improving the public's health. Prior to the recent outbreak, the United States was declared free of circulating measles in 2000.

With talks of major advancements in medicine like an HIV cure and genetic editing, no one imagined that America would be infiltrated by a disease we conquered almost 20 years ago.

Anyone who visited the property outside that timeframe is not at risk from that particular exposure, health officials said.

"It's really scary out there", she said. "It protects your child", Latimer said.

"The measles vaccine is highly effective", Dr. Herminia Palacio, the city's deputy mayor for health and human services, said Wednesday.

Under the new rules, anyone who has not received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or does not have evidence of immunity risks a fine of $1,000. It can live for up to two hours in airspace or on surfaces touched by an infected person. "I think it will help in getting the community covered", he said.

If you have any questions about measles or the MMR vaccine, please call the Westchester County Department of Health at 914-813-5000.