New York

U.S. Measles Outbreak Spreads to 24 States; 83 Percent of Cases Are in New York

Twenty-four states have reported cases, but the vast majority have been in New York — mainly in New York City and in nearby Rockland County

What to Know

  • The number of U.S. measles cases connected to the current outbreak hit 880 as of Friday, a 5 percent increase over last week, the CDC said
  • The burgeoning national outbreak has been fueled by outbreaks in New York, primarily in the city and Rockland County
  • Brooklyn and Queens had 498 confirmed cases as of last week, while New York's Rockland County had 231, according to health department data

Dozens more measles cases have been reported across the nation since last week, marking a 5 percent increase in total cases as the worst outbreak in decades spread to its 24th state, federal officials said Monday. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 880 cases had been reported as of Friday, up 41 from the week before. It's the most in the U.S. since 1994, when 963 were reported, and now affects 24 states, with Oklahoma being added to the list. While several states are experiencing high case totals, the lion's share have been in New York, primarily in Brooklyn and Queens.

New York City's latest numbers were on May 13, when it had 498 confirmed cases in the two boroughs dating back to September. That's more than half the entire national outbreak -- and considering the four-day gap in the city's latest tallies versus the information from the CDC, the city's share is likely higher.

New York's Rockland County, which took the dramatic step a month or so ago of banning unvaccinated minors from indoor public places in an effort to control the spread, had 231 confirmed cases as of Friday, an increase of six over the prior reporting period. More than 80 percent of the victims are under 19. 

New Jersey and Connecticut have reported cases as well, though those states are not listed among those with current outbreaks, which the CDC defines as three or more cases. 

For a deeper dive on how measles made a comeback in New York, and whether you might need to get a booster shot, listen to NBC New York's latest episode of The Debrief podcast. On Apple podcasts here, on all other devices here

Most of the New York cases have been unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities. A New York City emergency declaration that bans unvaccinated youth from attending school or day care in four Brooklyn ZIP codes remains in effect, and a number of schools have already been shut down. While the order includes highly Orthodox parts of Williamsburg, it also covers Fort Greene.

No deaths have been reported this year, but dozens of patients have been hospitalized. Many patients contracted the disease while traveling aboard and were not vaccinated, authorities said. 

Measles in most people causes fever, a runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. A very small fraction of those infected can suffer complications such as pneumonia and a dangerous swelling of the brain. According to the CDC, for every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.

The return of measles may be an early warning sign of a resurgences of other vaccine-preventable diseases such as rubella, chickenpox and bacterial meningitis, some experts say.

In recent decades, health officials have relied on doctors to prod families to vaccinate their children against measles and other diseases. That push has been bolstered by requirements in every state that children be vaccinated to attend public schools. But as vaccination rates have fallen in some communities and cases exploded, officials recently have taken more dramatic steps.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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