Sick Sunset Park kids are city’s first public school students to fall ill amid measles outbreak

Germ police! City disease detectives issue violations to parents of unvaccinated kids
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City health officials identified two unvaccinated Sunset Park kids as the first New York City public school students to fall ill with the deadly measles virus on Tuesday.

The students, along with another infected Sunset Park resident, all reported spending time in area’s where the measles virus has been active.

Fortunately, the children, who were enrolled in school under a religious exemption that allows kids to attend class without a vaccination, were not in school while infectious, according to one of the city’s top health officials, who noted that high vaccination rates in city schools should ensure the safety of students.

“We are confident there is no increased risk of exposure at New York City public schools both because the recently diagnosed children from Sunset Park were not in school while infectious and because of the high vaccination rates of students in these and all NYC public schools,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Demetre Daskalakis

Since Brooklyn’s first measles case was discovered in a member of the borough’s Orthodox Jewish community traveling from Israel in October, Health officials have identified 466 cases of the highly contagious pathogen, which has left 34 people hospitalized, including nine patients who required intensive care.

To combat the outbreak, Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot issued an emergency order mandating all residents of four Williamsburg zip codes — 11205, 11206, 11211, and 11249 — where the vast majority of measles cases have been discovered, vaccinate themselves and their children, or else face stiff fines.

So far, the Health Department’s so-called “disease detectives” have issued summonses to 84 people for failing to comply with the health order, requiring them to attend an administrative hearing and pay a $1,000 fine if the violation is upheld. Failing to attend the hearing results in an automatic $2,000 penalty.

A group of five Williamsburg parents filed a lawsuit against the city in Kings County Supreme Court last month for the right to not vaccinate themselves and their children, but Judge Lawrence Knipel swiftly dismissed the case on April 18.

This as the largest outbreak of the measles that New York City has experienced since 1991, according to Barbot, who reiterated the efficacy and safety of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which has been in use within the United States since 1963, before which roughly 3-4 million Americans fell ill with measles annually.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne pathogen that produces symptoms including fever, cough, and a runny nose, and can cause diarrhea, ear infection, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death — with about one of every 1,367 kids infected dying due to fatal complications from measles.

Symptoms can appear anytime from seven to 21 days following exposure, according to the Health Department.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.