Rockland County officials are taking no chances as New York battles its worst measles outbreak decades, banning unvaccinated children from public places, including schools, churches and shopping centers.
According to The Washington Post, officials declared a countywide state of emergency on Tuesday, and the ban “will begin at midnight and remain in place for 30 days or until unvaccinated minors receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.”
Outdoor areas such as playgrounds are not included in the ban.
"We must not allow this outbreak to continue," County Executive Ed Day said as the ban was announced during a news conference. "We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk."
Rockland County has seen more than 150 confirmed cases of measles, health officials report, as outbreaks have hit several states, including New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington.
County health officials also said more than “82 percent of the measles patients had not received a single dose of the MMR vaccine” and that 46 percent of the cases “were seen in children ages 4 to 18,” with 39 percent in children under three years.
The measles virus is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, brain damage, hearing loss and even death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Prior to the measles vaccine, developed in 1963, the Post reported that “an estimated 3 million to 4 million patients each year in the United States,” per CDC data.
The illness led to 48,000 hospitalizations, between 400 and 500 deaths, and “1,000 others suffered a severe complication known as encephalitis, a condition in which the brain swells because of an infection.”
In Rockland County, parents and legal guardians “who are found to be in violation will be held accountable and their cases will be referred to the district attorney's office” and could face “a $500 fine or up to six months in jail.”