Saturday January 18, 2020

New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

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The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s How Fitbit Smartwatch May Help You Predict Flu in Real-Time

The authors identify several limitations in their study

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Resting heart rate tends to spike during infectious episodes and this is captured by wearable devices such as Fitbit smartwatches and fitness trackers that track heart rate. Pixabay

In a first-ever study on wearable devices to improve surveillance of infectious disease, researchers in the US have achieved real-time flu prediction in five states, using resting heart rate and sleep tracking data from Fitbit users.

Resting heart rate tends to spike during infectious episodes and this is captured by wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers that track heart rate.

Influenza results in 650,000 deaths worldwide annually. And approximately 7 per cent of working adults and 20 per cent of children aged under five years get flu each year.

“Responding more quickly to influenza outbreaks can prevent further spread and infection, and we were curious to see if sensor data could improve real-time surveillance at the state level,” said study author Dr Jennifer Radin from Scripps Research Translational Institute.

The researchers reviewed de-identified data from 200,000 users who wore a Fitbit wearable device that tracks users’ activity, heart rate and sleep for at least 60 days during the study time.

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In a first-ever study on wearable devices to improve surveillance of infectious disease, researchers in the US have achieved real-time flu prediction in five states, using resting heart rate and sleep tracking data from Fitbit users. Pixabay

From the 200,000, 47,248 users from California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania wore a Fitbit device consistently during the study period, resulting in a total of 13,342,651 daily measurements evaluated.

The average user was 43 years old and 60 per cent were female.

De-identified data from the users retrospectively identified weeks with elevated resting heart rate and changes to routine sleep, said the research published in The Lancet Digital Health journal.

“In the future as these devices improve, and with access to 24/7 real-time data, it may be possible to identify rates of influenza on a daily instead of weekly basis,” said Radin.

This data was compared to weekly estimates for influenza-like illness rates reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

This is the first time heart rate trackers and sleep data have been used to predict flu, or any infectious disease, in real-time.

With greater volumes of data it may be possible to apply the method to more geographically refined areas, such as county or city-level.

The authors identify several limitations in their study.

Weekly resting heart rate averages may include days when an individual is both sick and not sick, and this may result in underestimation of illness by lowering the weekly averages.

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This is the first time heart rate trackers and sleep data have been used to predict flu, or any infectious disease, in real-time. Pixabay

Other factors may also increase resting heart rate, including stress or other infections.

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Lastly, the authors noted that previous studies of sleep measuring devices have been found to have low accuracy, though they said that accuracy will continue to improve as technology evolves. (IANS)