Rockland County declared a countywide State of Emergency relating to the ongoing measles outbreak – the longest outbreak since the disease was eradicated in the United States in 2000, according to officials.
Effective at the stroke of midnight, Wednesday, anyone who is under 18 years of age and unvaccinated against the measles will be barred from public places until this declaration expires in 30 days or until they receive the MMR vaccination.
Those unable to be vaccinated for documented and confirmed medical reasons are exempt from the declaration.
During a Tuesday press conference, Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the county entered its 26th week of the measles outbreak.
“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. “Rockland will lead the way in service and safety to the people here.”
As of Tuesday, there are 153 confirmed reported cases of measles in the county, according to Day.
According to the county, the measles outbreak in Rockland is not limited to one community, but it is affecting residents of Spring Valley, New Square, and Monsey.
Rockland County has been grappling with a measles outbreak in recent months – previously asking students who are unvaccinated to not attend school.
“Last year, not just one but seven unvaccinated travelers diagnosed with measles entered our county between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17 leading to 153 confirmed cases. This is the longest outbreak in the U.S. due to measles since the disease was officially eradicated in 2000,” Day said.
According to Day, the declaration is an effort for residents to realize the seriousness of the outbreak, but will “not chase people down” rather “expect them to take a step forward and be a part of the solution.”
Anyone found in violation of the declaration could spend six months in jail and/or a $500 fine, Day said. However, Day said the county is not looking to arrest people, but rather a means to grab the public’s attention.
According to Day, county officials have been met with “pockets of resistance” from people unwilling to comply with health department advise and this played a part in the declaration.
Measles is a highly contagious disease. Young children, the immunocompromised, and non-immune pregnant women are at highest risk for severe complications. Measles is transmitted by airborne particles, droplets, and direct contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person.
Measles typically presents in adults and children as an acute viral illness characterized by fever and generalized rash. The rash usually starts on the face, proceeds down the body, and may include the palms and soles. The rash lasts several days. Infected individuals are contagious from four days before rash onset through the fourth day after rash appearance.
Rockland officials encourage everyone to be up-to-date with the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine to help protect them in case of any future exposure to measles in Rockland.
Rockland health officials have urged those who are ill with a fever, rash, or conjunctivitis (red watery eyes) to stay home, not have visitors, and not go out in public.
To further prevent the spread of illness, the Rockland Health Department also advices that individuals who have symptoms consistent with measles to contact their health care provider, a local clinic, or local emergency department before going for care to help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness.
The Rockland County Department of Health is coordinating its response with the New York State Department of Health.