Measles outbreak spreads to NYC public school students

The city Health Department once again encouraged New Yorkers on Tuesday to get the measles vaccine after it revealed the outbreak has grown to 466 cases, including the infection of two unvaccinated public school students.

Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said about 81 percent of those who have been diagnosed with the disease are  in  four Williamsburg ZIP codes targeted by last month’s emergency health order,which mandated vaccinations in those areas.

Public school students accounted for two of three cases discovered in Sunset Park, according to the Health Department. 

Barbot said the two unidentified students were not members of the Orthodox Jewish community, but they had religious exemptions from getting  measles shots. The health commissioner said the two spent time in areas of the city where the outbreak is strong, but had not attended school while infectious. 

"One reason we have not seen secondary infections outside this community is because so many people are vaccinated, underscoring the importance of vaccination. We want to urge people to remain calm," Barbot said in a statement.

Measles can lead to brain swelling and death, if untreated. Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a health emergency order on April 9 for four ZIP codes, 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249, which mandated that residents get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or face a fine of at least $1,000.

The Health Department said 84 people have received summonses so far for failing to comply with the mandate. 

The agency said it has conducted extensive outreach with New Yorkers, emphasizing the facts behind the measles vaccine with pamphlets, phone calls and advertising. As of Monday, 22,833 doses of MMR  had been administered to children under 18 in Williamsburg and Borough Park since Oct. 1, 2018, the Health Department said.

"If you are spending time in Williamsburg, Borough Park or other areas with measles activity in or around New York City, confirm that you are immune to measles by looking at your vaccination history or by consulting with your health care provider," Deputy Commissioner Dr. Demetre Daskalakis said in a statement.