A massive measles outbreak in Rockland County has led officials to declare a state of emergency, banning all unvaccinated minors from public spaces (defined as “a place where more than 10 persons are intended to congregate). Anyone under 18 years old who has not had the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccination will not be allowed in public for the next 30 days. Violators’ parents could face fines or even jail time.
The ban comes on the heels of the largest measles outbreak New York State has seen in decades. There are 156 confirmed reported cases of measles in Rockland County as of today.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen six outbreaks in addition to Rockland County’s, including 214 confirmed cases in Brooklyn and Queens.
The outbreaks are mostly concentrated in ultra-orthodox Jewish communities, where resistance to vaccination is high due to religious and personal reasons. The current cases in New York and New Jersey are both linked to a measles outbreak in Israel last year.
Rockland county has administered 17,000 doses of the MMR vaccine since the outbreak started in October 2018, and nearly 6,000 unvaccinated children were sent home from school, thanks to an earlier executive order.
“We have the worst outbreak of the measles in the nation and great challenges call for bold action,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said at a news conference held March 26. “This is a public health crisis, and it is time to sound the alarm and take the appropriate action that, while it may be the first in the nation, is necessary to address the crisis right here in Rockland.”
“We must not allow this outbreak to continue indefinitely. We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk. This is a public health crisis, and it is time to sound the alarm, to ensure that everyone takes proper action to protect themselves and their neighbors; for the health and safety of all of us in Rockland,” concluded County Executive Day.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease (in the lungs and breathing tubes) caused by a virus that is spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people (when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes). Measles is one of the most contagious viruses on earth; one measles infected person can give the virus to 18 others. In fact, 90% of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash.
The New York State Department of Health Measles Information Line is (888) 364-4837. For more information, visit the New York State Department of Health website.