State of emergency over measles outbreak goes into effect in Rockland

A vial of the measles

Enlarge Image Reuters

A NY county implemented a ban on unvaccinated children in public places Wednesday amid a record-setting measles outbreak that prompted a state of emergency declaration.

The emergency order, which took effect at midnight, says that children who have not been vaccinated must stay away from schools, shopping centers, restaurants, houses of worship, and all other indoor public places. Even with that, Day says the motive is simply to alert the public, not arrest people.

Rockland isn't the only place in New York grappling with measles either; a similar outbreak concentrated among Jewish communities in nearby Brooklyn and Queens has been ongoing since last fall as well, with more than 190 cases documented as of mid-March, according to the New York City Department of Health.

Health officials said the best way to stop the disease's spread was a high vaccination rate in the community, and imposed the ban for 30 days.

While an outbreak is defined as at least three cases of measles, at least one case has been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles outbreaks in the state of NY began in October and have gone on longer and infected more people than any other current outbreak in the country, according to Kaiser Health News.

Day said the measles problem in Rockland is the worst outbreak in the nation.

"Mr Day said there are 153 cases since last October, this year alone there's already about 50 cases".

Outbreaks typically start with children whose families have refused vaccinations, and may spread to children who are too young to get the vaccine, can't get it for medical reasons, or in rare cases where the vaccine fails. The goal isn't to make arrests, but to bring attention to the issue, he said. "However, parents will be held accountable if they're found to be in violation of this emergency declaration".

Rockland County Attorney Thomas Humbach told Patch the county would be fighting back, saying, "These religious exemptions run the gamut from references to organized Christian doctrine to generalized spirituality".

Day said the emergency order was timed with the upcoming religious holidays of Easter and Passover in mind.

Day specifically noted that county officials have talked to "over a hundred Rabbis" to promote vaccination.

"We want people to be able to celebrate", he said. Early on in the outbreak, county residents were more receptive to getting vaccinated.

Day, with Rockland County, said authorities will not be searching for children who are not vaccinated but are expecting parents and legal guardians to step up and get children vaccinated.

This year, 314 cases have been reported nationwide, according to the CDC.

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