Wednesday July 17, 2019

NY County Declares Emergency Because of Measles Outbreak, Bans Unvaccinated People from Public Places

So far this year, more than 300 people have contracted measles in 15 states in the U.S

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Signs advertising free measles vaccines and information about measles are displayed at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., March 27, 2019. The county declared a local state of emergency over a measles outbreak that has infected 150 people since last fall. VOA

So far this year, more than 300 people have contracted measles in 15 states in the U.S. Almost half of those cases occurred in Rockland County, just north of New York City.

Because of the outbreak, which has lasted nearly six months, county officials have declared a state of emergency and are banning anyone who is unvaccinated from frequenting public places.

“Anyone who is under 18 years of age and is not vaccinated against the measles will be prohibited from public places until the declaration expires in 30 days or until they receive their first shot of MMR,” said Ed Day, county executive.

Public places include shopping malls, restaurants, buses and trains. Police will not be asking for vaccination records, but parents can face a fine of $500 and as much as six months in jail if they refuse to vaccinate their children.

‘Roll of the dice’

The county executive says it is a matter of getting parents to understand how dangerous measles is.

“Every new case is a roll of the dice,” Day said. “It could bring on pneumonia, encephalitis, the swelling of the brain, or cause premature birth, which can lead to complications and even death.” And, he said, it’s a matter of keeping those who can’t get vaccinated safe.

“What about the infants who are out there with mom and dad? My newborn grandson is an infant. What about those who are pregnant and those with compromised immune systems like cancer patients and survivors? These are the people we all need to step up for,” Day said.

Vaccine rates vary

Vaccine rates in the U.S. are still high. A CDC study found that 94 percent of children in the U.S. receive the first dose of vaccines that protect against measles, mumps, rubella and other vaccine preventable diseases.

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A nurse holds a vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Feb. 26, 2015. VOA

But vaccines that require boosters, including the vaccine against measles, had lower rates of coverage.

Some states allow parents who oppose vaccinating their children for religious or philosophical reasons to opt out. Vaccination rates in these states have dropped steadily. And as they have dropped, cases of measles have increased.

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Vaccines proven safe

Some parents wrongly believe vaccines can cause autism in children. Study after study has shown that not to be true. Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatrician with the Cleveland Clinic, defends vaccinating children.

“These vaccines are well shown to be safe,” he said. “We have tested them. We have followed children who have received these vaccines. We know how safe they are.”

Still, some parents remain unconvinced. Rockland County is offering free measles vaccinations in an effort to end the outbreak. (VOA)

Next Story

More Cases of Measles Reported in US, the Worst Outbreak in Over 25 Years

Nearly 30 states have reported cases, with outbreaks of over three cases ongoing in California

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Measles, US, Outbreak
A poster released by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is seen as experts answer questions regarding the measles response and the quarantine orders in Los Angeles, April 26, 2019. VOA

Thirty-three new cases of measles were reported last week, with 1,077 active cases total within the United States, according to health officials — the worst outbreak in over 25 years, when 2,126 cases were recorded in 1992.

Nearly 30 states have reported cases, with outbreaks of over three cases ongoing in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington state. New York’s Rockland County declared a state of emergency in late May, over a outbreak in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Measles was declared eradicated within the U.S. in 2000, four decades after elimination was first announced as a goal. A disease is considered eliminated when a full year passes with no active transmissions. If the current outbreak isn’t under control by October 2019, the U.S. will lose its measles elimination status.

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a press release last month. “Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations.”

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Thirty-three new cases of measles were reported last week. Pixabay

According to the agency, most cases are being spread by unvaccinated school-age children. Communities with low rates of vaccination create pockets through which the disease can easily be spread.

“I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., in the press release. “The greater danger is the disease the vaccination prevents.”

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Travel from countries where measles is common, especially Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines, is also contributing to the U.S. outbreaks, according to the Associated Press. (VOA)