Measles emergency ‘effectively over’: New York City officials

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Hailshadow/iStock(NEW YORK) —  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and health officials have declared an end to the recent measles outbreak in the city in a statement released Tuesday.

“Ending the measles outbreak required extensive collaboration with community organizations and Jewish leaders,” the mayor said in the statement. He went on to praise their efforts in encouraging vaccinations and achieving “record immunization levels.”

 New York City just suffered its largest measles outbreak in nearly 30 years. According to the mayor’s office, 654 people were diagnosed since the onset of the outbreak in October 2018.

About 73% of those diagnosed were not vaccinated and 80% were people younger than 18. Since the outbreak, there have been 52 measles-related hospitalizations and 16 admissions to intensive care.

A large portion of the outbreaks happened in Orthodox Jewish communities, including the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park. Many in those communities refused vaccinations on religious grounds. In April, the city set an emergency order requiring vaccinations in affected zip codes.

While the city has since rescinded the emergency order, in June, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed statewide legislation removing religious exemptions for vaccinations.

Although there have been no new cases of measles reported in New York City since mid-July, officials warned the threat remains.

“Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the face of the earth,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barnbot said in a statement. “There may no longer be local transmissions of measles in New York City, but the threat remains given other outbreaks in the U.S. and around the world. Our best defense against renewed transmission is having a well-immunized city.”

In June, there were 1,000 reported measles cases in the U.S., a record number since the disease’s eradication. Worldwide, measles outbreaks have surged 300% in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same time frame in 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been significant outbreaks of measles in Europe and Israel, as well as in countries in South America, Africa and Asia. New York City officials have urged travelers to check with healthcare providers prior to international travel. Those potentially exposed should seek care, and those who haven’t been vaccinated are encouraged to do so.

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