Monday December 16, 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.

measles, new york
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

Will Smith Feels “Emotional” about Homelessness in New York

'Emotional' Will Smith Campaigns Against Homelessness in New York

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Will Smith
Hollywood Actor Will Smith will be campaigning against homelessness in New York. Wikimedia Commons

Will Smith still feels “emotional” about homelessness years after playing a destitute man in one of his most acclaimed film roles, the Hollywood star has told charity campaigners braving a fierce New York winter night to sleep rough.

Hundreds of people had gathered in Times Square on Saturday, rugged up and ready to bunk down in freezing temperatures, in a campaign to raise funds for what organizers said was record homelessness globally.

Smith told the crowd that his Oscar-nominated role in “The Pursuit of Happyness” — a 2007 biopic of a salesman forced to live on the streets of San Francisco with his young son — was a “life-changing experience” that had allowed him to understand the misery of poverty.

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Will Smith arrives at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles, March 23, 2019. VOA

“It makes me emotional thinking about it right now,” Smith said. “To not have a place to go and to be able to lay your head down with your children at night is a horrendous tragedy.”

Smith also charmed crowds with a “bedtime story” — a rap rendition of the theme tune to his 1990s hit sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

People in over 50 cities around the world slept on the streets to support the World’s Big Sleep Out campaign, the charity said in a Saturday statement, adding that funds from the New York event would be donated to the UN Children’s Fund.

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“In New York City alone, more people are now homeless than at any time since the Great Depression,” the statement said.

“Over 62,000 people in New York, including 22,000 kids, will sleep in shelters tonight and the number of homeless people and refugees in cities around the world continues to hit record highs with each passing year.” (VOA)