236 cases In NYS and over 700 nation wide
By Simon Templar
SPECIAL TO CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS
Back in the year 2000 United States health officials in the Bill
Clinton Administration thought that measles as a pervasive disease
was eliminated, not eradicated. And a highly contagious disease
that once was thought to creeping towards extinction is almost 20
years later back in the news. While the number of infection is just
over 700 as of press time, the danger and the worry for both local
and national health officials is three-fold.
First, the disease can spread rapidly and is extremely contagious.
Second, is the inherent danger to young children who can’t be
vaccinated and older adults, suffering from underlying health
issues and whose immune systems have been compromised. But
perhaps the greatest danger for this disease to break into the
general population and thus become a true epidemic is the rise of
the anti-vaccine movement, ignorance surrounding the safety and
effectiveness of vaccines and the backward influences of some
To date, some areas of New York State are currently experiencing a
measles outbreak, including the lower Hudson Valley and parts of
New York City. Measles spreads easily and can be dangerous to
anyone who is not vaccinated. If you have questions about measles
or the measles vaccine, call the New York State Measles Hotline at
As of April 29, 2019, there are 236 confirmed cases of measles in
New York State outside of New York City (202 in Rockland County,
21 in Orange County, 10 in Westchester County, 2 in Sullivan
County and 1 in Suffolk County.) According to the Centers for
Disease Control (CDC), before measles vaccination became
widespread in the United States in 1963, up to four
million Americans got the disease each year. Back then, of the
roughly 500,000 cases that were reported to medical authorities
each year about 48,000 people – infants, young children, adults
and seniors – were hospitalized, 4,000 developed encephalitis
(swelling of the brain), and 400 to 500 died.
Across the United States, the states that have reported cases to
CDC, besides New York, are Arizona, California, Colorado,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. [Cases as of December
Once this disease enters the general population and starts to
spread, the fact is that unvaccinated young children are at highest
risk of measles and its complications – including death.
Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk since measles also
will affect the unborn fetus. Any non-immune person (who has not
been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity)
can become infected.
That said, there is a lot of confusion about the safety of the measles
vaccine and of vaccines in general. Driven by the aggressive and
very vocal so-called “Anti-vaxer movement” many parents are in a
quandary when facing questions of whether or not to vaccinate
their children and the fear caused by a false narrative that
vaccinations cause autism in children, something that has been
debunker as junk science over and over again, but still persists
thanks to the dogged and fanatic efforts on and offline of the Anti-
“No matter what these people are saying vaccines are very effective
medical tools to prevention diseases like measles. Vaccines, as
protection against potentially life-threatening diseases also help to
increase human life span increase,” say Ms. Mercedes Narcisse, a
veteran and experienced Registered Nurse.
According to the New York Times, controversies have been
raised about the safety of vaccines from autism to polio vaccine
contamination with simian virus 40 (SV-40). Hysteria surrounding
vaccine-associated risks has resulted in a declining number of
vaccinations in developed countries, including the United States.
Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (e.g. measles) have
occurred in Europe and North America also causing some
casualties. This 2019 measles outbreak rearing its ugly head is the
worst outbreak in decades.
In New York, an epicenter of the outbreak, city officials recently
closed two more schools for Orthodox Jewish children for failing to
comply with an order to exclude unvaccinated children. And in
California, hundreds of students and staff members at two
universities remained under quarantine following possible
exposure to the virus.
And with measles spreading globally, officials at the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention have urged Americans traveling
abroad to make sure they are immunized against the disease. The
agency recently renewed an urgent call for parents to get their
“The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are the
largest and longest-lasting since measles elimination in 2000,” Dr.
Nancy Messonnier, the C.D.C.’s director for immunization, said at a
news conference. “The longer this continues, the greater the
chances that measles will again get a foothold in the United States,”
More than 500 of the over 700 cases recently recorded as of last
week Friday were in people who had not been vaccinated, the
C.D.C. also stated. While there have been no deaths, 66 people have
been hospitalized, a third of them with pneumonia – a potentially
deadly complication of measles. Around the United States, there
have been 13 individual outbreaks in 22 states in 2019, the agency
reported. Some of those outbreaks have already been contained.
For the Central Brooklyn Caribbean immigrant community the
danger is that health aides, domestic workers and others would
come in contact with an infected person, infant, or senior citizen
and then bring to into the densely populated community. Local
health professionals are extremely nervous about the potential to
bring this disease into a community with a very high population of
unvaccinated individuals. The good news is that the outbreak in
New York, the nation’s biggest city, has been concentrated in
Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County.
The city reported last Monday that there had been 423 cases since
the virus appeared in October. State officials reported another 236
in counties north and east of the city. Officials in New York City
initially closed seven Orthodox schools for failing to comply with
vaccination orders; five have since reopened after providing
records showing that they were turning unvaccinated students
The city has also issued summonses to 57 residents of Brooklyn’s
Williamsburg neighborhood — where more than 80 percent of the
city’s cases have occurred — for refusing to get themselves or their
children vaccinated. Each summons can lead to a fine of up to
$1,000 — or double that if the person it is issued to does not appear
“The longer it takes schools and individuals to comply with our
order, the longer this outbreak will continue,” Dr. Oxiris Barbot,
New York City’s health commissioner, warned.
No matter the activities of the Anti-Vaxer Movement to deter
parents from vaccinating their children, more than 94 percent of
American parents vaccinate their children against measles and
other diseases, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the C.D.C., said.
About 100,000 children in this country below age 2 have not been
vaccinated, he said, meaning they are vulnerable in this outbreak.
Some infants are not immunized because their parents avoid
vaccination. Others cannot be protected either because they are
allergic to components of the vaccine or for other medical reasons.
Interestingly, this year’s outbreak, the C.D.C. said, was sparked by
126 infections acquired by travelers overseas since early 2018. The
bulk of them occurred in Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, but
cases have also come from Thailand, Germany, and Britain among
other countries. Of the 44 cases imported so far this year, the
C.D.C. explained, 34 were not by immigrants or foreign visitors,
but in Americans who had traveled abroad. Even with modern
medical advancements, measles normally kills about one out of
every 1,000 victims, according to the C.D.C.
Measles is among the most contagious of diseases. For example,
virus-laced droplets can hover in still indoor atmosphere for up to
two hours after an infected individual has coughed or sneezed. Up
to 90 percent of people who are exposed will catch the virus if they
are not immunized. Anyone born before 1957 is assumed to have
had the measles as a child and therefore immune.