ALBANY, New York (AP) – A county in New York City's north suburbs has declared a state of emergency Tuesday over a rubella outbreak that has infected more than 150 people since last fall, hoping to ban against unvaccinated children in public places wakes their parents to the seriousness of the problem.
"It's an attention grab, there's no question about it," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said at a news conference, noting that he did not think such a drastic step has ever been tried in the US before.
Day said he was taking the action in hopes of reversing a recent uptick in cases amid disturbing reports that health workers were experiencing resistance when investigating cases. Rockland's outbreak has the most heavily-affected Orthodox Jewish communities, in which vaccination rates tend to be lower.
Under the declaration, which lasts for at least 30 days, anyone under 1
But Day acknowledged that there is no concerted enforcement effort and that the intention is not to arrest people, but to emphasize the seriousness of the situation
deputy sheriffs asking for vaccination records. That's ridiculous, "said Day. "However, parents will be held accountable if they are found to be in violation of this emergency declaration."
The county is experiencing the New York State's longest outbreak of measles since the disease was officially eliminated from the United States in 2000. Health officials say the best way to prevent the disease's spread is a 92 to 95 percent vaccination rate in the community. Day said only 72.9% of people under 18 have been vaccinated against measles in Rockland County, which has more than 300,000 residents
The disease began in the area when seven unvaccinated travelers diagnosed with measles entered the county last October, and has spread to 153 cases to date, Day said. In the early days of the outbreak, people were cooperating with health officials and getting children vaccinated, he said, but that has changed
"Our health inspectors have been hung up and told not to call again. They've been told, 'We're not discussing this, do not come back' when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations, "said Day. "This type of response is unacceptable and frankly irresponsible."
A federal judge, citing an "unprecedented rubella outbreak," this month denied a request from parents to let 44 unvaccinated children return to a Waldorf School in Rockland County. On the same day, pediatric organizations expressed support for a state law that would allow the minor to get vaccinated without parental consent.
The state law's Democratic sponsors said too many parents believe unsupported online claims that vaccines are unsafe and cause autism or other conditions.
The day was echoed by that message, noting celebrities who have spoken out against vaccinations
"If you're going to People magazine and Jenny McCarthy and Robert De Niro for your medical advice, you need to re-evaluate your life," he said. ] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists six measles outbreaks, defined as three or more cases, around the country in 2019, including Rockland County's. The CDC said the outbreaks are linked to travelers who have brought the disease back from other countries such as Israel and Ukraine, where there have been large measles outbreaks
There have been 181 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since October, most of
The CDC says 15 states have had at least one case of measles confirmed in 2019, for a total of 314 cases to date. In 2014, 667 cases were confirmed nationwide and there were 372 cases in 2018.