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Vaccine-refusing community drove outbreak that cost $395K, sickened babies

Enlarge / A child gets a measles vaccine. (credit: Getty | BSIP)

A 2013 measles outbreak rooted in a vaccine-refusing community in Brooklyn, New York cost the city’s health department an estimated $394,448, requiring 87 employees to collectively spend more than 10,000 hours on outbreak response and control, according to an analysis published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

During the outbreak, which spanned March through July, health workers quickly mobilized to track down more than 3,300 people exposed to the highly contagious, potentially life-threatening virus. Workers then determined the vaccination status of those exposed and doled out prophylactic treatments or vaccines to those who would take them. To get the word out about the health threat, workers contacted local doctors’ offices, schools, and daycares. They also placed announcements in local newspapers, set up a telephone hotline, and held community briefings on the situation.

Almost a third of the employees involved in the response were working outside of their job descriptions, diverting resources from other critical public health activities. The cost estimate combined a conservative assessment of employee compensation ($332,000) and supply costs, such as lab testing and advertising ($62,000).

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