NY county declares measles outbreak emergency

Alicia Farmer
March 30, 2019

Rockland County Executive Ed Day told a press conference on Tuesday, that the NY suburb would be taking drastic measures to stop the measles outbreak that has plagued its residents since October as he declared an emergency, effective as of midnight Wednesday. Officials said minors who are unvaccinated will not be permitted in public places, such as churches, schools and shopping centers, though outdoors spaces such as playgrounds are not included in the ban. As Michael Gold and Tyler Pager report for the New York Times, the ban, which will go into effect at midnight, was prompted by a severe measles outbreak that has totalled 153 cases since October.

"It's an attention grab, there's no question about it", Rockland County Executive Ed Day said at a news conference, noting that he didn't believe such a drastic step has ever been tried in the United States before. "We are urging them once again with the authority of law, get your children vaccinated", said Day.

"If I did it three months ago, I'd be told I was overreacting; if I do it three months from now, I'd be told I'm taking my time", Day said of his decision to declare a state of emergency now.

"Measles is highly contagious, so anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting the disease, and they may spread measles to people who can not get vaccinated because they are too young or have specific health conditions".

The U.S. has counted more measles cases in the first two months of this year than in all of 2017 - and part of the rising threat is misinformation that makes some parents balk at a crucial vaccine, federal health officials told Congress Wednesday.

Overall, the measles outbreak in New York State has been the worst in recent years, and numerous cases seem to be concentrated in areas with high Orthodox Jewish populations.

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The target audience is parents of unvaccinated children and teens.

Most of the infections have been concentrated in Rockland's Orthodox-Jewish communities where vaccination rates are lower and anti-vaccination sentiments are widespread.

The order only applies to people under 18 because county officials did not want to prevent anyone from going to work, according to CNN.

(Lindsey Wasson/Reuters, FILE) Lead medical assistant Fengmei Lin holds a box of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine vials at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, March 20, 2019. "This type of response is unacceptable and frankly irresponsible". Almost 17,000 doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine were given in 26 weeks.

"They have been supportive of what we've been trying to do", Day said. "It endangers the health and well-being of others, and displays a shocking lack of responsibility and concern for others in our community", he said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by mid-January this year they'd seen just under 230,000 reported cases of measles for 2018 around the world.

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