Should We Be Worried About This Brooklyn Measles Outbreak?


Well, here’s something I thought I’d never be typing, in 2013: there’s a measles outbreak in Brooklyn. Huh. As far as the “should we worry about it” question, well, yes and no.

Probably not, in the sense that the outbreak is mostly contained to 21 (since-recovered) cases so far this year in Borough Park, and one in Williamsburg, largely within ultra-orthodox Jewish communities, according to the Department of Health. Meaning that opportunities for exposure have been pretty limited.

Yes, in the sense that this is still a pretty high number—in 2012, there were only 5 reported cases—and that even a relatively small outbreak is indicative of a troubling trend. Namely, people treating a basic, crucially important public health measure like vaccination as optional (or, in some cases, not being exposed to it as a viable option at all). Reportedly, this all started after someone from London “in a family who refused vaccinations” flew to New York and brought the virus with them, and it’s become part of a larger pattern: Borough Park has seen four such minor outbreaks since 2008.

So in case anyone needed a reminder: measles! Still highly infectious, still airborne and, per a Cornell doctor who spoke with DNAinfo, still “very preventable disease.” And it only takes one asshole to throw off this basic social contract! Please, do not be that asshole.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.