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State of emergency in New York county after measles outbreak

A county in New York state has declared a state of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles. BBC News reports that Rockland County, on the Hudson river north of New York City, has barred unvaccinated children from public spaces after 153 cases were confirmed. Violating the order will be punishable by a fine of $500 and up to six months in prison.

The report says the announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in Washington, California, Texas and Illinois.

Vaccination rates have dropped steadily in the US with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious reasons, or because they believe misleading information that vaccines cause autism in children. "We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk," Rockland County executive Ed Day said. "This is a public health crisis and it is time to sound the alarm."

According to the report, the outbreak in Rockland County is largely concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It is believed it could have spread from other predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas around New York which have already seen outbreaks of measles.

Day said in the report that health inspectors had encountered "resistance" from some local residents, which he branded "unacceptable and irresponsible". "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," he said.

Dylan Skriloff, the editor of local newspaper the Rockland County Times, is quoted in the report as saying the number of measles cases in the county had been increasing steadily in recent weeks. "The first reports came six months ago, and each week we've had a new report with increased numbers," he said. "It's become clear that it's not abating, and the authorities… don't want to accept (this reality) as the new normal."

Skriloff said that the authorities had been making "steady progress" in encouraging religious communities to immunise children but communication had broken down in the last month. "The rate of immunisation in the religious communities, for young people, it's about 50%-60%, which is not nearly enough."

Officials said the order, which bans anyone under the age of 18 who has not been vaccinated from places such as schools, shopping centres, restaurants and places of worship, would come into effect at midnight on Wednesday and last 30 days.

The report says Rockland County has a population of more than 300,000.

[link url=""]BBC News report[/link]

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