Health Care

NYC declares public health emergency amid measles outbreak

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday a declared a public health emergency in a heavily Orthodox Jewish section of Brooklyn amid a growing measles outbreak.

The 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 vaccine, including children over 6 months old.

Officials from New York City's Department of Health will check vaccination records of anyone who has been in contact with infected patients in certain parts of Brooklyn, officials said.

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

The outbreak began when an unvaccinated child visited Israel, where thousands of people have been sick, contracted the disease, and came back to Brooklyn.

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In a press conference, Dr Barbot said that of the 285 reported cases, 21 people have been hospitalised and five had been admitted to an intensive care unit. The other locations include areas of Washington state and Michigan, Butte County and Santa Cruz County in California, Rockland County in NY, and Ocean County in New Jersey.

Health officials have largely blamed the outbreaks on small but vocal anti-vaccine advocates who scare well-meaning parents by spreading unsafe lies and misinformation about life-saving vaccines and their safety. Since the start of the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tallied 465 measles cases in 19 states. Of those infected, 246 were children, NY health commissioner Oxiris Barbot said.

Neighborhood officials said the vast majority of Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg are vaccinated, but because the community is so tightly knit, just a small number of anti-vaxers is allowing this outbreak to grow. It says the vaccine is 97% effective.

The health commissioner issued a mandate that yeshivas must keep unvaccinated children out of school.

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