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At the start of this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailed just how serious the ongoing measles outbreak is becoming. So far this year, across 19 states, 465 measles cases have been confirmed — and a whopping 100 of them emerged in just the past week.
Not even four full months into 2019, there have been more measles cases reported in the U.S. than there were throughout all of 2018. The CDC has pointed to this drastic change in the spread of measles as a result of the growing prevalence of the anti-vaccination movement. Any person with measles, the CDC says, has a 90 percent chance of spreading it to any unvaccinated person — measles is highly contagious.
The 465 measles cases reported to date originate from 17 different outbreaks. The CDC has traced the origins of some of these outbreaks to travelers who returned from Israel, the Philippines, and Ukraine with the disease. Three separate outbreaks in New York City, New York state, and New Jersey comprise the majority of the reported measles cases.
In New York City, authorities recently took dramatic measures to curb the local measles outbreak. At a press conference on April 9th, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot declared a public health emergency, citing measles cases dating all the way back to October 2018. The mayor and Dr. Barbot ordered all residents in Brooklyn zip codes 11205, 11206, 11211, and 11249 to get the measles vaccination or pay fines as high as $1,000.
According to de Blasio and Barbot, many measles cases in New York City can be traced to ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park. Nearly 2,000 children in Williamsburg, Barbot claims, are not vaccinated against measles. The city has thus also announced that yeshivas admitting unvaccinated children to their schools could be fined or forced to close until the outbreak passes.
In Rockland County, a New York state county just northwest of The Bronx, officials attempted to pass a similar school closure measure. That ban, which barred unvaccinated children under the age of 18 from being present in any public spaces, was ultimately struck down by a judge.
Although the CDC has claimed that the New Jersey measles outbreak is as serious as the two outbreaks in New York, no new regulations have been enforced there. Across four New Jersey counties, 13 measles cases have been reported, seven of which originate from Ocean County. This recent outbreak is the second in the past six months to affect Ocean County. New Jersey residents can check this list for possible measles exposure dates, times, and locations.
Measles symptoms first manifest five to 21 days after exposure to the virus. These symptoms include cough, runny nose, and a rash that can grow to cover the entire body. Rarely, pneumonia and brain swelling can also occur. Pregnant women exposed to measles may also experience premature delivery.
Although most adults exposed to measles will ultimately fight the disease off, in 2017, 11,000 children across the world died from measles. The last measles death recorded in the U.S. was in 2015.