The measles outbreak affecting Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn has grown to 390 cases, including two expectant mothers, the New York City Health Department announced Wednesday. The number represents 105 cases identified in the past two weeks.
Of the 390 cases, largely children, identified since the outbreak began in October, 323 have occurred in Williamsburg, with most of the others in Boro Park. Eight people, including the initial case, had acquired the disease while traveling abroad to Israel (5 people), the U.K. (2) and Ukraine (1), areas having their own outbreaks. In addition to Williamsburg and Boro Park, there have been outbreaks in other Orthodox communities in the area, including Rockland County and Lakewood.
Of the cases in New York City, all but seven are Orthodox Jews.
New York City has taken drastic measures to combat this outbreak. In December, all unvaccinated children were banned from yeshivos in Boro Park and Williamsburg. Several Williamsburg yeshivos did not comply with the order; one of these yeshivos that allowed an unvaccinated student to attend was connected with 21 measles cases, according to the Health Department. In March, five other yeshivos that had not complied with the ban were issued Commissioner’s Orders – a final warning before imposition of penalties on the principal of $2,000 per unvaccinated student per day. On April 8, the Department issued blanket Commissioner’s Orders to all Williamsburg yeshivos. And the next day, a public health emergency was declared, requiring that anyone who lives in the Williamsburg zip codes 11205, 11206, 11211 or 11249 and may have been exposed to measles receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, show bloodwork proving immunity, or receive a $1,000 fine.
Last week, a judge dismissed a lawsuit by vaccine opponents seeking to have the emergency order overturned. Twelve people have received summonses since the city began issuing them last week for non-compliance with the emergency order.
Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot called the discovery of two expectant mothers with measles “stark reminders of why New Yorkers must get vaccinated against the measles as soon as possible.”
“When we do not get vaccinated, we put our friends, our relatives, our neighbors, our classmates and other fellow New Yorkers at risk,” said Barbot. “We urgently repeat our plea to every New Yorker, especially those in the affected areas – unless you have a medical condition that prohibits you from doing so, please get vaccinated.”
Also Wednesday, the Department issued health-care providers updated guidance for children, recommending:
– An early extra dose of the MMR vaccine for all children 6-11 months old who reside or regularly spend time in Williamsburg, BoroPark or Crown Heights and areas with measles activity.
– That an extra dose of MMR be considered for Orthodox Jewish children 6-11 months old living in other neighborhoods.
– Administration of the second dose of MMR vaccine for children 1-4 years old who have already gotten their first scheduled dose of MMR and who reside or regularly spend time in neighborhoods and areas with measles activity.