Brooklyn Parents Taking Kids To 'Measles Parties,' Officials Say

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK — Brooklyn parents are taking their kids to potentially deadly measles parties rather than get them vaccinated, Health officials said Tuesday.

New York City lawmakers have declared a state of emergency in Brooklyn, where the contagious disease has infected nearly 300 people, and some parents have opted for remedies “from back in the day” that health officials warn could be fatal.

“We have also received reports that there are people attending so-called measles parties,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.

“I must warn you that exposing your unvaccinated child to measles is very dangerous and it could even be deadly.”

Measles parties have seen a resurgence across the nation in recent years among parents who question the vaccination’s efficacy and fear it might cause autism, despite the 2015 report that found no link between the MMR vaccine and the developmental disorder.

The tradition dates back the 19th Century, decades before the MMR vaccine was developed in 1971, when parents would expose their children to the disease in hopes of building a natural immunity against diseases such as measles and chicken pox.

In recent years, pox parties have popped up in San Francisco, Minnesota and even been recommended by Kentucky governor Matt Bevin.

And parents have been sharing instructions on how to apply for vaccine exemptions on websites, social media, and in online forums, said health officials, arguing such “anti-vaxxer propaganda” was preying on New York’s Orthodox Jewish community.

Haaretz journalist Debra Nussbaum Cohen noted in her coverage of the Brooklyn measles outbreak that Haredi, hit hard by the outbreak, has a culture that prefers to find answers to its problems within its community rather than trust outside authorities.

But New York City health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot warned parents measles parties were more likely to endanger children, and the people nearby, than inoculate them against the infectious, airborne disease.

“Back in the day, people were having parties to expose their kids to chicken pox, to measles,” said Barbot. “We live in a different world now.”

“Thank goodness we haven’t seen a death yet,” Pilasios added. “Please help us keep it that way.”

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