Friday, 19 April, 2019

New York City declares health emergency over measles outbreak in Williamsburg

Celia Hoffman | 10 April, 2019, 04:23

New York City has declared a public health emergency over a measles outbreak centred in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and ordered mandatory vaccinations in the neighbourhood.

The city's largest outbreak since 1991 of the once virtually eradicated virus has mainly been confined to the Orthodox Jewish community in the borough's Williamsburg neighborhood, with 285 cases confirmed since October, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities".

The order, which applies to anyone who lives, works or goes to school in four ZIP codes in the neighborhood, comes just as federal health officials announced measles cases have spiked once more nationwide.

The Health Department order also mandates that parents vaccinate children who are six months of age or older unless the parent or guardian can prove the child is immune to the disease or should be "medically exempt from this requirement".

The New York City Department of Health has ordered mandatory measles vaccination within a section of the Borough of Brooklyn, where there have been more than 250 documented cases of the highly-contagious disease since September.

New York City accounted for about two-thirds of all measles cases reported across the United States last week.

On Monday, the city's health department also issued an order requiring all Orthodox Jewish schools in the area to exclude unvaccinated children until the outbreak is over.

NY accounted for about two-thirds of all measles cases reported last week in the United States. While there have been no confirmed deaths so far, 21 people have been taken to hospital, with five admitted to intensive care, officials said. Most of the children were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. "We have to stop it now", De Blasio said on Tuesday in Brooklyn. They have been spreading unsafe misinformation based on fake science.

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"We have a situation now where children are in danger".

"We're hoping it doesn't quite get that extreme".

Measles "parties" stems from the once-popular trend of "pox parties" - intentionally exposing children to chickenpox, before the Varicella vaccine was rolled out in 1995.

The outbreak has been predominately among ultra Orthodox Jews, and not unsimilar to outbreaks among other insular communities in recent years where parental fears about immunization have been influenced by an anti-vaccine movement in the larger population that persists despite scientific studies showing the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

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.

Others remained convinced, against expert assurances, that vaccines were unsafe. The community's rabbis have called on their followers public to get vaccinated, according to the report.

"I've seen some mailings", Schlesinger said.

"We're making clear that unvaccinated students will not be allowed in schools or day cares", de Blasio said. It says the vaccine is 97 percent effective.

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