A SUNY Upstate pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases says vaccinating children should not be optional in light of the measles outbreak in Brooklyn. New York City has declared a health emergency after at least 280 people became ill, mostly in ultra-orthodox Jewish communities. Dr. Jana Shaw at Golisano Children’s Hospital says not vaccinating is not worth the risk.
"I think we have to remind ourselves that it will only take one infected individual to come to our community. So, it really just takes one case to spread the infection because the measles virus is very contagious."
The disease is also very serious. Shaw says that one in four patients of the disease require hospitalization, and one in 20 may develop pneumonia. Historically, the disease was widespread in the United States, until a preventative vaccine was developed. But Shaw says now, the measles may be back.
"In the United States, measles was declared eliminated. So we have no longer seen endemic transmission of measles in the United States. And here we are several years later and we start seeing transmission again due to the outbreaks and the refusal to vaccinate."
Shaw says students at five private schools in Onondaga County are at higher risk of getting the measles because of low vaccination levels due to the high number of religious exemptions. Right now, she says the rates of infection are highest in communities that oppose vaccination for religious reasons. But she says the new outbreaks underscore the benefits of vaccination in children.