New York City Declares Health Emergency Outbreak spreads
NEW YORK—The de Blasio Administration today declared a public health emergency in select zip codes in Williamsburg, following a measles outbreak affecting the Orthodox Jewish community. As part of the declaration, unvaccinated individuals living in those ZIP codes who may have been exposed to measles will be required to receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in order to protect others in the community and help curtail the ongoing outbreak.
Under the mandatory vaccinations, members of the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will check the vaccination records of any individual who may have been in contact with infected patients. Those who have not received the MMR vaccine or do not have evidence of immunity may be given a violation and could be fined $1,000.
“Measles is a dangerous, potentially deadly disease that can easily be prevented with vaccine,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “When people choose not to get their children vaccinated, they are putting their children and others – such as pregnant women, people on chemotherapy, and the elderly – at risk of contracting measles. The City has worked aggressively to end this outbreak, and today’s declaration of a public health emergency and new vaccine mandate, in combination with the blanket Commissioner’s Orders for yeshivas, ensures we are using every tool to protect New Yorkers.”
This public health emergency declaration comes after the NYC Health Department issued Commissioner’s Orders last week to all yeshivas and day care programs serving the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, doubling down on their order to exclude unvaccinated students or face violations and possible closure, first announced in December. Now any school out of compliance will immediately be issued a violation and could be subject to closure.
To date, 285 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak in October, with many of these new cases being confirmed in the last two months. The vast majority of cases are children under 18 years of age (246 cases), and 39 cases are adults. Most of these measles cases were unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated individuals. There have been no deaths associated with this outbreak, although there have been complications, including 21 hospitalizations and five admissions to the intensive care unit.
Measles is a highly contagious disease and can cause severe complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death. Measles is easily preventable with the safe and effective MMR vaccine. Newborns, pregnant individuals, and those with weakened immune systems cannot get vaccinated, so it is important that everyone around them be vaccinated in order to protect them from contracting the virus and prevent severe complications in these susceptible populations.