Another 71 Americans have contracted measles – driving this year’s rate to near-record-breaking levels.
It means 626 people have been infected this year, the highest number since 2014, when 667 infections were recorded in the entire year.
Most of the new infections (68) were in New York state, where officials are struggling to contain outbreaks in two counties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s
Despite efforts to control the virus, experts expect the caseload to soon eclipse 2014, making it the biggest outbreak since 1994, when 963 people got measles.
626 people have been infected this year, the highest number since 2014, when 667 infections were recorded. Most of the new infections were in New York, which has two current outbreaks
There are 22 states with measles clusters.
At first, all attention was on Washington and Portland, where the virus was flourishing in Russian-American communities that distrust vaccines.
But in the last month, that caseload was swiftly eclipsed by New York’s.
As of last week, 329 people in Brooklyn, New York City, had contracted measles, and most of them were unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities, according to health officials.
Rockland County, north of New York City, has 199 confirmed cases, and that outbreak has spilled out into the neighboring Westchester County, which has recorded eight cases.
New York is also responsible for an outbreak in Michigan, after an Israeli traveler who spent the winter in Brooklyn drove to Detroit to continue his country-wide tour fundraising for an Orthodox Jewish charity. Though the measles outbreak started in Brooklyn in October, it wasn’t until the night the traveler set off, in early March, that he started showing symptoms. A week later, 38 people in Michigan had measles.
The community is largely opposed to vaccines because of lines in the Torah, which can be read to mean worshippers should not put foreign bodies in their own body.
Normally, that would be accepted by most states, which allow for religious exemption from vaccines.
But New York took a strong stance to ban religious exemptions two weeks ago in a bid to control the outbreak.
The move was strategically pulled a week before Passover, which is this week and marks a time when families travel around the city to various community events.
In the two weeks since Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency, around 1,000 children in the epicenter neighborhood (Williamsburg) have been vaccinated, five schools have been closed, and three parents have been issued court summons for refusing to vaccinate their children.
Public health experts say the extremity of the policies could further push vaccine-skeptical groups away from the medical establishment.
But Mayor de Blasio insists it is the right course of action – even more so since defeating a lawsuit from five families that claimed the state of emergency was unlawful and anti-Semitic.