The number of measles cases in the five boroughs declined 58% in May after two months of steep increases, according to data released by the city Health Department on Tuesday.
New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said Tuesday she was “cautiously optimistic” that the outbreak was slowing. There were 86 new measles cases in May, down from 177 in April and 160 in March.
Since the outbreak started last October, there have been 588 confirmed cases in the city.
“We don’t want anyone to take this for granted and say, ‘I don’t need to worry about getting vaccinated,’‘’ Barbot told reporters on Tuesday after a Board of Health meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Queens. “The message here is that (the) measles vaccination is safe, it’s effective and it’s working but we need more people to get vaccinated against measles.”
Health officials are facing a strong anti-vaccination faction in the community.
On April 9, the city issued an emergency order that requires every adult and child who lives or works in several Brooklyn ZIP codes to be vaccinated against the potentially-deadly disease.
Barbot said more than 400 Health Department staffers have been focused on the outbreak, and praised partners in the Orthodox Jewish community in Borough Park and Williamsburg, the epicenter of the city’s outbreak, for helping with several public awareness campaigns and outreach.
At the meeting, the agency also unveiled new educational posters that read “Spread the truth not measles: There is no link between autism and vaccines.”
Since the emergency order was issued, more than 51,000 children between the ages of six-months- to 18-years-old have been vaccinated, including 3,844 in Williamsburg, officials said.
“As the city’s doctor, I lose sleep thinking about who’s going to be the next person who is going to be infected with measles,” Barbot said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of taking this seriously.”
As of June 10, violations were issued to 35 school and child care programs that did not exclude unvaccinated students. Nine of those facilities were shuttered by the city but have since reopened.
After the Board of Health Meeting, the agency announced it closed another Williamsburg school for allowing students who did not have proof they were vaccinated.