New York County Measles State of Emergency: Unvaccinated Students Banned

A child with measles.

Creative Commons A child with measles.

A New York county has declared a state of emergency over a measles outbreak of 153 reported cases since October, calling it one of the worst in decades. It is the longest outbreak since the disease was eradicated in the United States in 2000, according to officials.

Unvaccinated minors under the age of 18 have been banned from public places effective Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at midnight. The minors will be banned until the declaration expires in 30 days or until they receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination. Religious exemptions are not permitted as an exception to the ban. Those found in violation of the declaration could spend six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. The ban is meant to encourage people to step forward for vaccination rather than for officials to have to seek people out to be vaccinated, and parents of minors can be held accountable by the declaration.

The ban is an Extreme Precaution

A child with measles.

Creative CommonsA child with measles.

“We believe this to be the first such effort of this kind nationally and the circumstances we face here clearly call for that,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. “Rockland will lead the way in service and safety to the people here.”

A public place is considered a space “in which more than 10 persons are intended to congregate for purposes such as civic, governmental, social, or religious functions, or for recreation or shopping, or for food or drink consumption, or awaiting transportation, or for daycare or educational purposes, or for medical treatment,” as stated in the emergency declaration.

The Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all children receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose administered between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second dose administered between 4 and 6 years of age, prior to entering kindergarten or first grade. More than 92% of high school students have received two doses of MMR vaccine.

The Disease Spreads Easily

A child with measles.

Creative CommonsA measles outbreak.

One person with measles can spread the disease to 12-18 others if they are unvaccinated. The illness can last several weeks, with symptoms usually appearing in 7-14 days. In certain cases, the disease can cause brain damage and death.

“The outbreak has been largely concentrated in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland, many of which have close ties to Brooklyn areas where there have also been infections. In both communities, vaccination rates tend to be lower and anti-vaccination literature has spread, public officials have said,” according to The New York Times, who reports nearly 6,000 unvaccinated children were pulled out of schools and nearly 17,000 doses of the MMR vaccine were given in 26 weeks to attempt to curb the outbreak.

There’s also an ongoing outbreak of measles in Washington state, which prompted the governor there to declare a public health emergency, too, reports Vox. The German government is considering making measles vaccinations mandatory for all children.

In the first three months of 2019, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has logged 314 confirmed cases of measles in 15 states. Many of the cases have been reported from Washington with the longest running illnesses taking place in New York. An international traveler brought measles to Rockland County in September 2018, according to a publication from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

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