April 23, 2019

New York City declares health emergency over measles outbreak in Williamsburg

11 April 2019, 08:14 | Silvia Roy

Enlarge Image Bill de Blasio and Dr. Oxiris Barbot during a press conference Tuesday morning. Paul Martinka

Bill de Blasio and Dr. Oxiris Barbot during a press conference Tuesday morning

New York City declared a public health emergency Tuesday morning, ordering mandatory measles vaccinations for residents in parts of Williamsburg as the number of confirmed cases for the infection rose to 285 since September 30.

"There's no question that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving", said de Blasio.

The Brooklyn outbreak has been tied to an unvaccinated child who contracted the disease during a trip to Israel, which has recently seen a high incidence of measles, the Washington Post reported.

There have already been 285 confirmed measles cases in New York City since the outbreak began last fall, city health officials said.

"Young children and people who have weakened immune systems can not get vaccinated, so it's crucial that everyone around them be vaccinated in order to shield them from the infection". In 2017, there were only 2 recorded cases of measles.

The vaccine is 97 percent effective, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, and if someone is exposed to the disease, he or she has a three-day window to still get vaccinated and limit the damage. The Associated Press reports that this is the largest measles outbreak in the city since 1991, and that NYC accounts for two-thirds of all cases reported in the us last week.

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The outbreak has largely centred around ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities where immunisation rates are low.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency-medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed that the outbreak "has the potential to escalate" if vaccination coverage isn't adequate in certain areas.

Battling a fast-growing measles outbreak, New York City has declared an emergency and ordered mandatory vaccinations under threat of fine in a Brooklyn neighborhood where the disease is spreading. Barbot said that 21 people have been hospitalized, and five have ended up in the intensive care unit.

"I know that parents may be afraid of getting their child vaccinated, but as a pediatrician. They have been spreading risky misinformation based on fake science", said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

The city threatened to close Orthodox Jewish schools in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, where many parents have refused or neglected to vaccinate their children.

Measles is a highly contagious disease and can cause severe complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death. "The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that people who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine".

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One school that violated the mandate has been linked to more than 40 cases, the health department said.

People are considered immune if they have received two doses of MMR vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969.

Although measles was declared officially eliminated from the United States in 2000, a total of 465 cases have been confirmed in 19 states from January 1 to April 4, according to the CDC.

US cities have fined residents before for not being vaccinated, but "not in our modern history", said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown Law professor focused on public health law.

Amid the crisis, the city has had to deal with another problem: People deliberately and voluntarily exposing their unvaccinated children to the (potentially deadly) disease.

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