New York City declares public health emergency amid growing measles outbreak

Kenny Tucker
April 10, 2019

New York City officials declared a public health emergency Tuesday in parts of the Williamsburg neighborhood, where a measles outbreak has run rampant in an Orthodox Jewish community since last October-largely among unvaccinated children. That's up sharply from only two reported cases in all of 2017.

De Blasio said the number of confirmed cases in Williamsburg has ballooned since Purim and that there are concerns that the disease will continue to spread as families come together to celebrate Passover. While there have been no deaths, 21 people have been hospitalized and five have gone into ICU.

The vast majority of cases are children under the age of 18 - 246 cases - and 39 cases involve adults.

"This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately", de Blasio.

He was joined by health officials who decried what they called "misinformation" spread by opponents of vaccination.

The health order applies to anyone living, working or going to school in four zip-codes in the neighborhood and requires all unvaccinated people at risk of exposure to the virus to get the jab, including children over six months old.

For those who need help getting the vaccine, the city has said that it will offer assistance. "This single yeshiva is connected to more than 40 cases, resulting in a large increase in measles cases and the continuation of the outbreak". Since the start of the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tallied 465 measles cases in 19 states.

It is the first time New York City has ordered mandatory vaccinations in recent history, according to health officials.

"This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighbourhoods".

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"They're spreading this information through hotlines, some publications".

"We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk".

"The point here is not to fine people but to make it easier for them to get vaccinated", Barbot said at Tuesday's news conference.

Many vaccine opponents believe medically baseless claims that inoculations can cause autism and other negative health effects.

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.

"It is crucial for people to understand that [the] measles vaccine works, it is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested", said Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

The United States measles vaccination program began in 1963. "This is a public health emergency".

This comes after the city threatened to shut down religious schools and day care services in the community that allowed unvaccinated children in. Officials there banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces last month.

Video: Despite evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, the anti-vaccination movement is gaining strength.

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