NY measles emergency declared in Brooklyn

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

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

Rockland County, located near New York City, has also declared a 30-day public health emergency over a measles outbreak there that has seen 168 people contract the disease, according to the CDC. Those who didn't get the vaccine or are not immune to the virus may be fined $1,000. Those who are uninsured will pay what they can afford, de Blasio said, and those who cannot afford the vaccination will receive it free. This order affects residents of the following zip codes: 11205, 11206, 11221 and 11249.

"This is an unusual action", New York Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged, "and it's because of the sheer extent of the crisis".

City officials announced a public health emergency over the outbreak following the diagnoses of 285 cases of measles since October. "Unvaccinated people continue to get measles while overseas and bring the disease into the United States and spread it to others".

According to the city's health commissioner, almost 300 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak in October.

Anyone looking to find out where they can get vaccinated or to get more information can call 311.

The health department in December ordered yeshivas and daycare centers in specific Brooklyn zip codes, populated largely with ultra-Orthodox, to exclude all non-vaccinated students until the end of the current measles outbreak. Now any school out of compliance will immediately be issued a violation and could be subject to closure.

The Brooklyn outbreak is part of a broader resurgence in the USA, with 465 cases reported in 19 states so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All but 39 of the confirmed cases are in children.

The city adds in its release that the majority of those infected were unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated.

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The disease is easily spread and can be fatal, but there have been no confirmed deaths so far, officials said.

Spread through coughs and sneezes, measles is highly contagious and can cause serious health problems, including pneumonia and brain swelling that can lead to seizures, deafness or intellectual disability.

"It's true that a lot of people have measles and measles are not a very good thing, but I think the vaccine also not a very good thing", said Aron Braver, a neighbourhood resident.

Officials fear increased travel during Passover among people who could carry measles to or from NY. Pregnant women - even if they have received the MMR vaccine - are still at risk of complications including birth defects or loss of pregnancy.

Barbot said that the majority of religious leaders in the large Orthodox communities support vaccination efforts, but that rates have remained low in some areas because of a resistance "fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods".

Measles can be prevented through vaccinations.

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.

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