In 2013, after a visit to London where one child contracted measles, the disease spread to 57 additional people, none of who were vaccinated against this childhood disease. According to an inquiry whose results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the outbreak cost the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene $394,448 fighting the illness.
Dr. Jennifer B. Rosen, of the city health department, was one of three authors of the study.
The outbreak began in March and was limited only to people residing in Williamsburg and Borough Park, among the area’s orthodox Jews. By the end of the outbreak, in June, a total of 58 people came down with the illness, from infants too young for the vaccine, to at least one adult 32 years old. None of these people had been vaccinated, although 46 of them were old enough for the shot.
The study explains that the outbreak would most likely have been more widespread if it weren’t for the insular nature of the orthodox Jewish community that the contagion was centered in. The attack was the largest in New York City since 1992.
The high price to the city was caused by travel expenses, testing equipment, and more than 400,000 hours of work by 87 staff members.
“Measles vaccine refusals or delays can lead to large outbreaks following measles importations, with costly and resource intensive response and containment,” wrote Rosen.
“The significant burden and consequences of measles outbreaks as well as other public health emergencies underscore the importance of continued support for a robust and flexible public health infrastructure for health departments.”