US County declares state of emergency amid measles outbreak



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Bella Huang, a one-year-old crying as medical assistants protect her legs for a series of vaccines at the International Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, USA, on March 20, 2019. Lindsey Wasson, Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A measles outbreak in New York has declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and has banned unvaccinated children from public places in an attempt to prevent the disease, which has already been eliminated, from spreading.

The measure, which defines a public place as anywhere "more than 10 people plan to meet" – including public transportation – was announced by Rockland County officials, 40 miles north of New York City.

To take effect at midnight on Wednesday for 30 days, it appears to be the most radical step by American authorities after outbreaks in several regions, attributed to an anti-vaccination movement.

"We must do everything in our power to stop this outbreak and protect the health of those who can not be vaccinated for medical reasons and very young children to be vaccinated," said Ed Day, a county executive.

Day also criticized the "resistance" of some residents to health inspectors.

"They said we're not discussing this, do not come back," when they visit the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations, "he said, stating that such responses" are unacceptable and irresponsible. "

Rockland County, with a population of more than 300,000, recorded 153 cases of measles, which was officially declared in 2000.

Despite major vaccination campaigns since the start of the outbreak in October, about 27 percent of children aged 1 to 18 are not vaccinated, Day said.

The most affected neighborhoods are those with a high ultra-Orthodox Jewish population, where many are opposed to vaccines for religious reasons.

Vaccines are theoretically required to go to school in the United States, but 47 of the 50 states – including New York – allow exemptions, mostly for religious reasons.

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