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- A man traveled from New York City to Oakland County, Michigan, and set off a measles outbreak there.
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently declared a public health emergency in Brooklyn due to a measles outbreak. It has centered largely within the borough’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
- Between January and April 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 555 individual cases of measles in 20 states across the US – the second-largest number of cases reported since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
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A man dubbed “Patient Zero,” who spread measles to Oakland County, Michigan – was a traveler from Israel who came via New York, according to state health officials.
There have been 39 measles cases reported in Michigan this year, according to officials. In addition to the outbreak in Oakland County, there is an additional, unrelated, outbreak in Washtenaw County related to international travel. This is the largest measles outbreak to hit the state in more than two decades.
Patient Zero was originally in New York, where he spent time in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community – the epicenter of a crisis that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has dubbed a public health emergency. As of April 15, there have been 329 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens, mostly confined to the Orthodox Jewish community, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
While there is nothing in the Jewish religion that prohibits vaccinations, there has been an uptick of cases among ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are insular and generally mistrusting of the government, health officials told the Washington Post. Anti-vaxxers have also introduced a misinformation campaign directly targeting the community, complete with phone calls and pamphlets distributed across the neighborhood.
After spending time in Brooklyn, Patient Zero traveled to an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Oakland County in early March. He frequented synagogues and studied with others in the area, according to the Detroit Free Free. Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County, told INSIDER that the patient thought he was immune to the disease
Stafford said that all of the cases in the county were linked to that initial Patient Zero case.
“So it’s a really easy virus to spread once you have the disease, and that’s why we really put out a lot of education on the importance of knowing your vaccine status and what to look for with signs and symptoms,” she added.
Between January and April 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 555 individual cases of measles in 20 states across the country – the second-largest number of cases reported since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
In addition to Michigan and New York, cases have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus, and which can easily spread when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes, as well as more serious complications like diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, and swelling of the brain.
While it was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, according to the CDC, it has reemerged as a public health threat in recent years, heightened by a growing anti-vaxx movement.
Stafford told INSIDER that the majority of measles patients in Oakland County are adults, adding that since March 13, more than 2500 people in the county have been vaccinated.
- Read more:
- Even if you got the measles vaccine, you may not be protected against the disease – here’s how to tell
- 3 graphics show how the measles epidemic is getting worse across the US
- As more parents join the anti-vax movement, states are scrambling to make it harder to opt out of vaccinating your child