By:April 9, 2019
New York City has declared the measles outbreak affecting the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg to be a public health emergency, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
Unvaccinated people living in select ZIP codes will be required to receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as MMR, to curtail the outbreak and protect others, he said.
“Every hour, every day matters here. If people would just go and get vaccinated, there’s no cause for a fine,” de Blasio said. “It’s not our goal to issue violations. We want to simply solve the problem.”
New Yorkers should call 311 to access a list of facilities that can provide the measles vaccine at low or no cost, de Blasio said.
Outbreak began in October
The public health emergency comes in response to 285 cases of measles reported in Brooklyn and Queens since the beginning of the outbreak in October. The same outbreak is responsible for 15 cases of measles in Orange County, New York, and 168 cases in Rockland County, New York. The outbreak began when, according to health officials, an unvaccinated child became infected with the illness while visiting Israel.
Of the 285 New York City cases, the range of ages has been 1 month to 66 years, with 246 children affected, Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said Tuesday. Five of 21 hospitalized cases have been admitted to the intensive care unit, she added.
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio warned of “measles parties,” where parents bring together unvaccinated children with a sick child to intentionally spread the disease.
“Avoid this practice,” Palacio said. Measles parties are dangerous because the disease can be fatal. “This vaccine is safe,” she added, noting that it not only protects your child, it protects other people. “A variety of misunderstandings and frank untruths that are being propagated through a variety of channels.”
Despite problems, there are hopeful signs, Barbot noted. Since September, 8,000 people have been vaccinated.
Measles outbreaks nationwide
Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable respiratory illness characterized by a rash of flat red spots. Symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes.
“You can be infectious four days before you actually develop the rash,” Barbot said. Measles is an airborne disease, so a sneeze can spread it, and infectious germs can last two hours after a person has left the room.
“There’s nothing in Talmudic law that prohibits vaccination,” Barbot said.
Nationwide, measles outbreaks have been reported in 19 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
At least 465 cases of measles have been reported across the United States since January 1, according to numbers shared by the CDC on Monday.
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