Medicine

County bans unvaccinated minors in public as measles spreads

County bans unvaccinated minors in public as measles spreads

The measure, which defines a public place as anywhere "more than 10 persons are meant to congregate" - including public transport - was announced by officials in Rockland County, 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of New York City. The source of the outbreak is said to be unvaccinated travelers who came through the ny area in October 2018. During the outbreak, more than 17,000 vaccinations have been given in the county, according to CNN.

Dylan Skriloff, the editor of local newspaper the Rockland County Times, told the BBC the number of measles cases in the county had been increasing steadily in recent weeks.

"We must not allow this outbreak to continue indefinitely or worsen", said county executive Ed Day.

Rockland County has declared an emergency over a measles outbreak, banning everyone under 18 who is not vaccinated from public places such as malls and churches.

From Jan.1 to March 21, there have 317 cases of measles reported, with outbreaks having been reported in California, Illinois, New York, Texas and Washington. New York Times reports that there have been 153 confirmed cases of measles in the county since October 2018.

The emergency expires in 30 days. "We want them to get vaccinated", says Rockland County spokesperson John Lyon. There have also been at least 181 confirmed cases of measles in the NY boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens since October, mostly among Orthodox Jews, according to the city's health department. The public spaces in the ban include schools, restaurants, businesses, shopping centers and places of worship.

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Skriloff said that the authorities had been making "steady progress" in encouraging religious communities to immunise children but communication had broken down in the last month.

"We believe this to be the first such effort of this kind nationally and the circumstances we face here clearly call for that", Day said.

Under the emergency declaration, the only option Rockland County officials have is to charge an individual with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a $500 fine and a possible sentence of up to six months in jail.

The emergency order came as concern grows in jurisdictions around the United States about outbreaks of the disease, which has surged back as parents refuse to get their children vaccinated. "This type of response is unacceptable and frankly irresponsible".

Measles is a highly infectious disease and can cause serious health complications, including damage to the lungs and brain. The lawsuit said the county's order banning unvaccinated children from schools regardless of religious or medical exemptions violated their constitutional rights. "It endangers the health and well being of others".