Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Dozens of children New York's Orthodox Jewish community have been infected with measles in one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in the state in decades.
The New York City Department of Health said there had been 55 confirmed cases of measles in the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn from October through Wednesday.The outbreak started after an unvaccinated child with measles acquired the disease on a trip to Israel, which is also experiencing an outbreak.
"Since then, there have been additional children from Brooklyn who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel. Children who did not travel were also infected in Brooklyn or Rockland County," the health department said.
Dr. Douglas Puder, a pediatrician at Clarkstown Pediatrics in Nanuet, N.Y., told NBC News measles presents "a clear and present danger" to the community as 167 cases of the disease have been reported since September, the most in a year since the 1990s.
The number of children who are vaccinated in the state has been decreasing as a result of anti-vaccine propaganda, looser enforcement of school vaccination requirements and families individually deciding to forego standard medical care, local, state and federal health officials say.
Some private schools in Rockland County, where the current outbreak is taking place, have reported vaccination rates of 50 percent, about half the 95 percent vaccination rate required to prevent outbreaks of disease.
"We have made an incredibly aggressive effort to address this," New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. "This has been the worst measles outbreak in recent history in New York state."
Within the past three months 13,000 people, most of whom are young children, were vaccinated at state and county clinics, while unvaccinated children have been required to stay home to protect them against the disease until they have received their shots.
It is recommended that children receive a measles, mumps, rubella, or MMR, vaccine on or after their first birthday and a second dose before entering school at 4 years to 6 years of age.
Infants ages 6 months to 11 months old should also receive MMR vaccines before traveling internationally and anyone born after Jan. 1, 1957, who hasn't been vaccinated or doesn't have a blood test proving their immunity to measles should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, the NYC health department said.
The department added that anyone planning to travel to Israel should get vaccinated with the MMR vaccine at least two weeks in advance of the trip.