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New York declares public health emergency as measles outbreak hits Brooklyn

New York mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered all residents to be vaccinated.
Apr 9th 2019, 9:28 PM 19,652 69

NEW YORK MAYOR Bill de Blasio has declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn, ordering all residents to be vaccinated to contain a measles outbreak concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

The order concerns all people living or working in four zip codes of Williamsburg. 

Since October, 285 cases of measles have been confirmed in New York City, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“It was time to take a more muscular approach,” de Blasio told a news conference as the emergency measures were announced. 

“This can be turned around quickly,” he said. “We can stop this.”

“I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities,” de Blasio said in the statement. 

Under the new rules, anyone who has not received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or does not have evidence of immunity risks a fine of $1,000 (€887), a statement from the mayor’s office said.

The city has also warned that yeshiva religious schools and day care programmes serving the local Orthodox Jewish community would face penalties and possible closure if they continue to take in unvaccinated students.

The group, along with other minorities impacted such as the Amish community, do not necessarily have religious objections to vaccinations but local media in the region has in recent months reported that they can be more vulnerable to ‘anti-vaxx’ movements. 

The mayor’s decision comes after officials in Rockland County – with a population of 300,000 people and roughly 40km north of New York City – last month banned unvaccinated children from entering public places “with a congregation of more than 10 people” as well as banning them from using public transport. 

Although measles was declared officially eliminated from the US in 2000, a total of 465 cases have been confirmed in 19 states from 1 January to 4 April, according to the CDC.

“This is the second-greatest number of cases reported in the US since measles was eliminated in 2000,” it said. 

Global issue

The latest concerns come as 98 countries across the world have reported spikes in the number of people who have contracted the viral illness, according to a recent Unicef report.

In Ireland alone there has been a 208% increase in the number of cases recorded in 2018 against cases recorded in 2017.

The countries with the highest recorded increase were Ukraine with 30,338 cases, the Philippines with 13,192 cases and Brazil with 10,262 cases – all due mainly to internal conflicts and vaccine shortages. 

Measles are most commonly diagnosed among children between the ages of one and four but can affect all ages, and those with other illnesses and pregnant women are at particular risk. 

There were 74 reported cases Ireland in 2018, up from 25 reported cases in 2017.

To date in 2019, there have been 28 reported cases – 15 of which have been confirmed and the rest are probable or possible.

A recent episode of the TheJournal.ie’s The Explainer podcast examined why there has been such a huge increase globally in a disease that was once thought to be on its way to being eradicated.


Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

MEASLES: How to recognise the symptoms?

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Red rash that starts on the head and spreads down the body – this normally starts a few days after onset of illness; the rash consists of flat red or brown blotches, which can flow into each other; it lasts about four to seven days
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy pain may also happen

Measles can cause chest infections, fits (seizures), ear infections, swelling of the brain and/or damage to the brain.

The Department of Health gives the following advice in relation to the MMR vaccine:

  • All children should get the MMR vaccine when they are aged 12 months; if any child aged over 12 months has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP
  • All children should get a second dose of MMR vaccine when they are four to five years old or in junior infants at school; if any child in senior infants or older has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP
  • Adults under 40 years who have not had measles or have not received two doses of MMR vaccine should contact their GP to get the MMR vaccine
  • Adults over 40 years of age may sometimes be at risk and if such adults never had measles nor a measles-containing vaccine they should consider getting the MMR vaccine from their GP

What advice does the HSE give to people who think they might have measles?

  • Do not go to work, school or crèche
  • Stay at home and phone your GP – tell the doctor or nurse that you think you might have measles
  • Stop visitors coming to your home
  • Pregnant women who have been exposed to measles should seek medical advice as soon as possible

With reporting by Conor McCrave and © – AFP, 2019 

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Hayley Halpin

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