A state of emergency was declared in Rockland County, New York over a "measles outbreak" with the administration of hundreds of doses of MMR vaccinations, according to officials statement on Friday. What is believed to be the first nationwide action, the county has imposed a 30-day ban on unvaccinated children in public places.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles had been eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, outbreaks have been occurring in five states this year, that are linked to travelers who brought the illness back from other countries, and the majority of them being unvaccinated. The surge in measles cases was also related to anti-vaccination movement, particularly among the Orthodox Jewish populations, whose neighborhood is worse affected.
‘Measles could lead to severe complications including pneumonia or encephalitis leading to blindness or deafness, and sometimes even to death.’
According to the CDC, around 314 cases of measles were reported in the US from January 1 to March 21. Rockland County with a population of more than 300,000 had registered 157 measles cases on Friday.
The outbreak started in October, and more 17,500 people have been vaccinated. County Executive Ed Day said that the vaccination numbers increased by almost 500 in the last two days. Despite major vaccination campaigns in the country since the outbreak occurred in October, around 27 percent of minors aged one to 18 years are not vaccinated.
"We believe we are on a right path now to get at least a 93 percent immunization rate with the first shot," added Day, near to the level considered significant to end the outbreak.
Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the measles virus that spreads rapidly through the air. The airborne infection causes fever, coughing, and rashes that can even turn deadly in some cases. One shot of MMR vaccine, which protects against three diseases- measles, mumps and rubella (German measles), is 95 percent effective, whereas two doses are 97 percent effective.