Jun 19, 2019 | Updated: 09:31 AM EDT

Measles Outbreak Causes the Shutdown of a School in New York

Apr 16, 2019 10:01 AM EDT

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As the controversy in anti-vax issues continue, New York City Department of Health has issued an exclusion order last December that prevents unvaccinated students from attending school in some neighborhoods.  This order demands that all persons over 6 months of age who are within the specified zip codes of Williamsburg be vaccinated and it has resulted to the issuance of violations to 23 yeshivas and day care centers. Last month, however, the Department of Health has shifted from issuing violations to closing schools and learning centers that violate the order.

Just this week, the preschool at the United Talmudical Academy in the Williamsburg area has been closed by the city after it has failed to provide medical and attendance records as required by the Department of Health. The school serves 250 students of 3 to 5 years old. On Monday, New York City's health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot talked about the reason for closing the school. "The challenge has been with this particular school that they have been unable and/or unwilling to provide documentation as required when we visit," he said. "So we have visited on a number of occasions and offered support, but in spite of all of that, it's been to no avail." In the conference, some health officials have mentioned that two students associated with the school have acquired measles, but they were not able to say if they were infected in the school or elsewhere.

The closing of the said preschool has been seen to be related to the fact that this is a school for the ultra-Orthodox community although most people in this community have been vaccinated. Actually, their rabbis have been encouraging their community to have their children vaccinated. But in the skeptic spirit of some belonging to the anti-vax community, they have fortified their belief in opposing vaccination.

The United Talmudical Academy was said to remain closed until they are able to provide "a corrective action plan approved by the department" according to the Department of Health.

Last week, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all individuals living in certain zip codes of Brooklyn are required to be vaccinated against measles as the outbreak has already been declared as a public health emergency. If violated, these individuals are to pay a fine of $1000, to which a group of parents have protested last Monday.  They argued that the order was "unjustified because of insufficient evidence of a measles outbreak or dangerous epidemic."

Since January, there have already been 555 cases of measles reported in the United States. This has to be the largest since year 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With this in mind, the New York City Department of Health hopes that after closure of one school, child care programs and schools follow the order. "This outbreak will continue to worsen, and the case count will grow if child care programs and schools do not follow our direction," Dr. Barbot said. "It's crucial in this outbreak that child care programs and schools maintain up-to-date and accurate immunization and attendance records. It's the only way we can make sure schools are properly keeping unvaccinated students and staff out of child care centers to hasten the end of this outbreak."

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