Measles emergency, needle, vaccine
Photo by Marlon Lara

Rockland County skirts the Hudson River about 25 miles north of New York City. They are suffering from a measles emergency  that prompted officials to declare a 30-day ban on any unvaccinated people under the age of 18 from being in public places.

Measles Emergency

There have been more than 150 confirmed cases of the measles in the county over the last few months. “It’s an attention-grabber, there’s no question about it,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said at a news conference. He admitted that there is no way to enforce such a thing. But that isn’t the point. Day said: “The goal isn’t to make arrests, but to bring attention to the issue.”

Of the 153 confirmed cases, 82 percent had not gotten the measles mumps rubella vaccine. And most of those infected are minors.

The emergency declaration bans unvaccinated minors from public places, including restaurants, civic centers, houses of worship, shopping malls and schools. “I must take this step to protect the infants, infirm, and ill of this county who are unable to be vaccinated against the measles or who are immunocompromised,” said Day. “I must make every effort to protect them.”

The Measles

From the World Health Organization: “Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

“Approximately 110,000 people died from measles in 2017 – mostly children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.

“Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.

“Accelerated immunization activities have had a major impact on reducing measles deaths. During 2000– 2017, measles vaccination prevented an estimated  21.1 million deaths. Global measles deaths have decreased by  80% from an estimated  545 000 in 2000* to  110 000 in 2017.”

How is the Measles Spread

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases. It is spread by coughing and sneezing. You can get the measles by close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours. It can be transmitted by an infected person from 4 days prior to the onset of the rash to 4 days after the rash erupts.

No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus.

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