A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at a hospital.
(photo credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot declared a public health emergency on Tuesday warning that all unvaccinated people in Brooklyn will now be required to receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or face strict penalties. The emergency was declared due to an outbreak of the disease among ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in the area.
The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will check the vaccination records of any person who may have been exposed to infected patients. Anyone who has not been vaccinated or have evidence of immunity could receive a violation and be fined $1,000.
The order also prohibits unvaccinated students from attending school or day care. Any school or day care which allows unvaccinated students to attend, could face violations subject to fines of $1,000 per violation or even closure.
During a press conference on Tuesday, de Blasio stressed that urgent steps need to be taken now, before the Passover vacation, since many people will be traveling and congregating during the Passover vacation, which could substantially heighten the risk of the outbreaks getting much, much worse.
"This a disease that can spread in just a few hours," de Blasio said. "It can be fatal."
The measles vaccination will be given to all who need it at NYC immunization clinics, even to people who couldn't usually afford it.
285 people have been infected since the outbreak began in the Orthodox Jewish community in NYC since last October.
Jewish community leaders have been working with the NYC municipality to try and curb the outbreak, but New York yeshivas have violated Department of Health orders to keep out infected students multiple times since the outbreak began.
Most of the cases of the measles outbreak were reported in Borough Park and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Large measles outbreaks have been reported worldwide, including a large outbreak in Israel.
There have been reports of "measles parties," in which children are brought near an infected person so that they get infected. NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio stressed during the press conference that this is an exceedingly dangerous practice and should be avoided. Officials at the press conference also stressed that the vaccine is 97% effective and has been proven to be safe.
An El Al flight attendant was hospitalized in serious condition last week after she contracted measles on a flight from John F. Kennedy airport in New York to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, according to the Times of Israel.
No deaths have been reported during the outbreak in NYC, but some patients have ended up in intensive care with severe complications.
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