NYC health commissioner warns against measles 'parties'

People not vaccinated for the measles as required under a new public health order by the City of New York have 48 hours to do so before legal action could be taken.

"They will be fined $1,000 per instance," Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city's health commissioner, told FOX 5 NY's morning program 'Good Day New York.' "For instance, if a parent has three children and one of them gets the measles, exposing the other two, the fine would be $3,000."

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in the wake of the rising number of measles cases centered in Williamsburg's Orthodox Jewish community. Health officials ordered nearly everyone in Williamsburg to be vaccinated for measles or face fines.

More than 280 people in Brooklyn and Queens have come down with measles since September.

The emergency declaration requires vaccinations for people exposed to the virus and applies to residents of four ZIP codes in Williamsburg. Children over 6 months old in the zone in question are also required to be vaccinated.

"The public health order requires everyone living in the zip codes of 11205, 11206, 11211, and 11249 to get vaccinated within the next 48 hours," Dr. Barbot said.

The health commissioner warned about the dangers of "measles parties."

"What we are hearing from the community is that people are having these gatherings and allowing their children to be exposed to the measles," she said.

Parents were allegedly allowing their children to be infected with measles in order to naturally immunize them and avoid the vaccination.

Anyone needing a vaccine can visit the city's website for locations at or by calling 311.

"If anyone is thinking of a legal challenge we are absolutely comfortable that we will win that case," de Blasio said.

"This is about one neighborhood and tracing folks that have been exposed," de Blasio added. "You literally need to track down every single person that person came in contact with."

Earlier this week, the city ordered religious schools and day care programs serving the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg to exclude unvaccinated students or risk being closed down.

A virus causes measles, which is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, white spots inside the mouth, and tiny red spots on the body. The red spots emerge on your head and spread to the rest of your body.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. The CDC recommends that children get two doses of MMR vaccine. The first dose is given when the child is between 12 and 15 months old. The second dose is given when the child is between 4 and 6 years old.

"The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective," the CDC said. "Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective."

The United States measles vaccination program began in 1963. Before then, between 3 million and 4 million people got measles every year, according to the CDC. Less than 20% of those cases were even reported to the CDC, the agency estimated. In the cases reported, about 400 to 500 people died each year. About a thousand developed encephalitis, which is swelling of the brain.

Since 1963, "widespread use of measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99% reduction in measles cases compared with the pre-vaccine era," the CDC said. "However, measles is still common in other countries. Unvaccinated people continue to get measles while abroad and bring the disease into the United States and spread it to others."