Officials have confirmed at least 153 cases of measles in Rockland County, N.Y., just north of New York City, since October. Last week County Executive Ed Day declared a state of emergency and issued a controversial ban, barring any unvaccinated people under the age of 18 from public places, including shopping malls, civic centers, schools, restaurants, and even houses of worship for 30 days unless they get vaccinated.
Authorities could charge violators with a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, but Day said the county does not have any concerted enforcement effort planned. The ban is intended to emphasize the seriousness of the situation.
The parents of 44 unvaccinated children who were barred from a private school in the county have challenged the emergency ban in court.
“It’s irrational,” said civil rights attorney Michael Sussman, who is representing the parents. “You’re punishing people who don’t have the illness rather than quarantining people who are sick.” Sussman said the spread of the disease would stop quickly if authorities quarantined measles patients and those close to them.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared measles officially eliminated in 2000, but travelers bring the disease to the United States from other countries. The CDC has recorded more than 350 cases in 15 states so far this year, most of them in unvaccinated children. Five states—California, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington—have reported outbreaks, defined as 3 or more cases.
On a related note, more than 2,000 students and staff at Temple University lined up for free mumps vaccine booster shots last week following a mumps outbreak of 106 confirmed or probably cases at the school. Most of the cases occurred in individuals already vaccinated. Protection tends to fade 10 or more years after the second dose of the vaccine, usually given between ages 4 and 6. —J.B.