City officials warned parents are holding 'measles parties,' where they intentionally expose their unvaccinated children to an infected child in the mistaken belief that doing so is a safe way to create immunity.
'I understand that parents may be afraid of getting their children vaccinated,' said Oxiris Barbot, the city's health commissioner.
'I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting measles.
The measles outbreak in Brooklyn, primarily among Orthodox Jewish children, prompted New York City on Tuesday to declare a public health emergency, requiring unvaccinated people in the affected areas to get the vaccine or face fines of up to $1,000.
The city's largest outbreak since 1991 of the once virtually eradicated disease has mainly been confined to the Orthodox Jewish community in the borough's Williamsburg neighborhood, with 285 cases confirmed since October, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.
That's up sharply from only two reported cases in all of 2017.
'This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately,' de Blasio said. He was joined by city health officials who decried what they called 'misinformation' spread by opponents of vaccines.
The measles virus is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications and death. While there have been no confirmed deaths so far, 21 people have been hospitalized, with five admitted to intensive care, officials said. All but 39 of the confirmed cases are in children.
Measles 'parties' stems from the once-popular trend of 'pox parties' - intentionally exposing children to chickenpox, before the Varicella vaccine was rolled out in 1995.
In an attempt to 'naturally' build up their kids' immunity to viruses, parents would get them all together, expose them to the virus, to get it over and done with.
Deliberately exposing a child to chickenpox comes with risks.
Exposing kids to measles is even more dangerous.
The virus can escalate into severe complications such as hard-to-treat bacterial infections, pneumonia and inflammation of the brain.
What's more, the more children in the community have it, the higher risk of exposure for kids with weakened immune systems and pregnant women, who need to avoid the virus.
These days, exposure parties are largely a thing of the past. The vaccine offers the same immunity boost without the ordeal of enduring the virus.
A dead or weakened form of the virus is injected into a child, stimulating antibodies to recognize the virus without making them sick.
But health experts are concerned by the booming number of parents in Brooklyn who are skeptical of vaccines.
The outbreak is part of a broader resurgence in the United States, with 465 cases reported in 19 states so far this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: The Daily Mail