Brooklyn recently welcomed the New Jersey Nets now the Brooklyn Nets and has been booming with an influx of artsy types of all stripes. But as of late, Brooklyn has become home to a much more serious outbreak. Cases of measles have been increasing in several Orthodox Jewish communities since early May. At this point there are 34 confirmed cases, including 27 in Borough Park and 7 in Williamsburg and over 700 people have been exposed to the disease.
All the individuals who acquired this preventable disease were unvaccinated at the time of exposure, and 23 of those had refused (or more likely, their parents had refused them permisson to have) vaccinations. Five cases were too young for vaccinations, and six were cases with delayed vaccinations according to the Bureau of Immunization of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).
Reasons for the outbreak within the community have not been confirmed, but health officials suggest that the close quarters and large family size characteristic of these neighborhoods could be a factor. There is no evidence to suggest that the resistance to the vaccinations is based on religious beliefs (in fact, the Jewish religion clearly supports the life-saving benefits of children s vaccination).
In order to prevent any further spread of this outbreak, doctors press for better reporting, isolation and timely vaccination. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends a two-dose vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) for children. The first dose should be when the child is 12-15 months and the second at 4-6 years.
However, the Health Department is now recommending that all Orthodox Jewish children living in Borough Park, Williamsburg and Crown Heights be given the first dose of the MMR vaccine at 6 months old. The DOHMH also suggests that groups who are at high-risk for complications should be given Immune globulin when exposed to measles. This includes infants less than 6 months, infants 6-12 months who did not receive MMR within 72 hours of exposure, immunocompromised persons and pregnant women who are not immune.
Health officials also stress the importance of isolating suspected cases in an airborne isolation room, and not waiting for confirmed testing of the disease before taking precautions.
Of the 34 cases reported thus far, complications include pneumonia, a miscarriage and two hospitalizations. The Measles is both highly contagious, and highly preventable. We urge the public to assist in interrupting the spread of measles by following recommendations by health officials, especially regarding timely vaccinations.