Health officials in New York City have branded a single yeshiva – a Jewish Orthodox school – the driver of new measles cases.
The center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is linked to 21 of the 31 new cases of measles in the city, driving up the total number of cases to 121 since the outbreak began in October.
Orthodox Jewish communities have been hardest-hit by the spread.
Of the cases, 108 are in children under age 18 and eight people have been hospitalized.
The health department says Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov, and two other schools, disobeyed standing orders to keep out unvaccinated children.
City officials say if the yeshivas had simply complied, the outbreak might have been nearing its end instead of continuing to spread.
Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (pictured), has been linked to 21 of the 31 new measles cases identified in New York City after it disobeyed a standing order and allowed students who were unvaccinated to attend school
The Health Department has doubled down on efforts to promote vaccines in the Orthodox Jewish community, where there has traditionally been some resistance to immunization.
Thanks to the campaign, health officials say they were able to vaccinate an additional 7,000 children.
In December, the health department said students in certain zip codes in Borough Park and Williamsburg who were not up-to-date on the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine would not be allowed to attend school.
Currently, about 1,800 students are not attending school because of the order.
But, according to WNYC, at least three schools disobeyed the order. Among them is the biggest culprit: Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov in Williamsburg.
‘This yeshiva went out of compliance with the Health Department’s exclusion order in mid-January, allowing an unvaccinated student who had measles but had not yet begun presenting symptoms [to attend school],’ the department said in a press release.
Dr Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner of Disease Control for the city, told WNYC that if the school had not violated the order, the outbreak would be close to over.
‘The unvaccinated kid who got measles wouldn’t have been in the school and there wouldn’t have been a bunch of other [unvaccinated] students in the school and they wouldn’t have gotten measles,’ he said.
‘So we would actually be at closer to what would be the tail end of this outbreak.’
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS OF MEASLES?
Most people will recover from measles within one or two weeks, but complications can develop.
People most at risk of complications include teenagers and adults, babies younger than one year old, and children with a weakened immune system.
Common complications include diarrhea and vomiting, a middle-ear or eye infection, laryngitis, fits caused by a fever, and lung infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis and croup.
About one in every 15 infected children will develop one of these.
Less common complications include hepatitis, meningitis and a brain infection called encephalitis.
Rare complications include serious eye disorders which can lead to vision loss, heart and nervous system problems, and a fatal brain infection called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis – this is very rare and only happens in one in every 25,000 cases.
Having measles during pregnancy increases the risk of the baby having a low birth weight, premature birth, or stillbirth or miscarriage.
Source: NHS Choices
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children receive the first dose at 12 to 15 months old and the second dose at four to six years old.
However, two weeks ago, the NYC Health Department began recommending that clinicians in Orthodox Jewish communities administer an extra, early dose of the MMR shot in children between aged six to 11 months
It comes on the heels of a congressional hearing last week during which heads of federal health agencies confirmed that the US has counted more measles cases in the first two months of this year than in all of 2017.
So far, 159 cases of measles have been confirmed in 10 states, hitting New York and the Pacific Northwest the hardest.
At the hearing, Dr Anthony Fauci, infectious diseases chief at the National Institutes of Health, said the measles vaccine is highly effective and the fact that cases are on the rise ‘is really unacceptable’.
He believes the spreading of misinformation about jabs has left many parents vaccine hesitant and, therefore, have raised their child’s risk of catching life-threatening diseases.
‘Misinformation is an important problem,’ Dr Fauci said, according to NBC News.
‘The spread of misinformation that leads people to make poor choices, despite their well-meaning, is a major contributor to the problem we’re discussing.’
Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus.
When someone with measles coughs, sneezes or talks, infected droplets are sprayed into the air, where other people can inhale them and are then infected.
Symptoms present themselves between 10 to 14 days after infection and include fever, cough, runny nose and a total-body skin rash.
Once common, the disease is now rare due to the MMR vaccine.
The vaccine is about 97 percent effective. But those who are unvaccinated have a 90 percent chance of catching measles if they breathe the virus in, according to the CDC.
Before the measles vaccine was available, more than 500,000 cases were diagnosed in the US every year, with about 500 annual deaths.
In 2018, 349 cases of measles were confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia, the CDC reported.
It is the second-greatest number since measles was considered eradicated in the US in 2000.