Friday December 13, 2019

New York’s Worst Measles Epidemic in Nearly 30 Years Officially over After Months of Emergency Measures

The official end of the outbreak, 42 days since the last reported case, comes before the start of the US financial capital's new school year Thursday

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New York, Measles, Epidemic
FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, March 20, 2019. VOA

US officials on Tuesday declared New York’s worst measles epidemic in nearly 30 years officially over after months of emergency measures that included mandatory vaccinations. New York

About 654 people, many in areas with large Orthodox Jewish communities, were infected since October last year but there have been no new cases since mid-July, the city government said.

The official end of the outbreak, 42 days since the last reported case, comes before the start of the US financial capital’s new school year Thursday.

Schools and nurseries were the focal points of government efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

New York, Measles, Epidemic
US officials on Tuesday declared New York’s worst measles epidemic in nearly 30 years officially over after months of emergency measures that included mandatory vaccinations. Pixabay

“To keep our children and communities safe, I urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated. It’s the best defense we have,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

Authorities declared measles eliminated in the United States in 2000 but there have been 1,234 cases of the potentially deadly disease reported in the country this year, the worst since 1992 according to the Center for Disease Control.

The rise comes as a growing anti-vaccine movement gains steam around the world, driven by fraudulent claims linking the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, to a risk of autism in children.

New York city officials made vaccinations mandatory in the worst affected areas in April to help stem the epidemic. Schools were also allowed to turn away children who had not been vaccinated.

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Those measures have been lifted, but a New York state law passed in June outlawing religious exemptions that had allowed parents to circumvent school-mandated vaccination remains in place.

“There may no longer be local transmission of measles in New York City, but the threat remains given other outbreaks in the US and around the world,” said New York’s health commissioner Oxiris Barbot.

The city government spent over $6 million and mobilized more than 500 employees to fight the outbreak.

New York, Measles, Epidemic
About 654 people, many in areas with large Orthodox Jewish communities, were infected since October last year but there have been no new cases since mid-July, the city government said. Pixabay

Last month, the World Health Organization said there were 89,994 cases of measles in 48 European countries in the first six months of 2019.

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That was more than double the number in the same period in 2018 when there were 44,175 cases, and already more than the 84,462 cases reported for all of 2018. (VOA)

Next Story

Nipah Virus has Serious Epidemic Potential: Health Experts

Health Experts Warn of Emerging Threat of Nipah Virus

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Virus
A deadly virus called Nipah carried by bats has already caused human outbreaks across South and South East Asia. (Representational Image). Lifetime Stock

A deadly virus called Nipah carried by bats has already caused human outbreaks across South and South East Asia and has “serious epidemic potential,” global health and infectious disease specialists said on Monday.

The virus, identified in 1999 in Malaysia and Singapore, has sparked outbreaks with mortality rates of between 40% and 90% and spread thousands of kilometers to Bangladesh and India – yet there are no drugs or vaccines against it, they said.

“Twenty years have passed since its discovery, but the world is still not adequately equipped to tackle the global health threat posed by Nipah virus,” said Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is co-leading a Nipah conference this week in Singapore.

CEPI, a partnership between disease experts, and public, private, philanthropic, and civil organizations, was set up in 2017 to try to speed up the development of vaccines against newly emerging and unknown infectious diseases.

Health epidemic
Doctors and relatives wearing protective gear carry the body of a victim, who lost his battle against the brain-damaging Nipah virus, during his funeral at a burial ground in Kozhikode, in the southern Indian state of Kerala. VOA

Among its first disease targets is Nipah, a virus carried primarily by certain types of fruit bats and pigs, which can also be transmitted directly from person to person as well as through contaminated food.

Within two years of being first discovered, Nipah had spread to Bangladesh, where it has caused several outbreaks since 2001.   A 2018 Nipah outbreak in Kerala, India, killed 17 people.

“Outbreaks of Nipah virus have so far been confined to South and Southeast Asia, but the virus has serious epidemic potential, because Pteropus fruit bats that carry the virus are found throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, which are home to more than two billion people,” Hatchett said.

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He said since Nipah can also pass from person to person, it could, in theory, also spread into densely populated areas too.   The two-day Nipah conference, the first to focus on this deadly virus, is being co-hosted by CEPI and the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore and starts on Monday.

“There are currently no specific drugs or vaccines for Nipah virus infection, even though the World Health Organization has identified (it) as a priority disease,” said Wang Linfa, a Duke NUS professor and co-chair the conference. He hoped the meeting would stimulate experts to find ways of finding Nipah. (VOA)