April 11, 2019

Rockland County employees work to stop spread of measles

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
doctor's office

In the wake of the measles outbreak in Rockland County and the New York City area, Rockland County employees have been busy setting up vaccination clinics, providing information to the public, and posting notices in schools about the spread of the disease.

Members of the Rockland Association of Managers, a union of 176 people affiliated with NYSUT, have been working to help stop the spread of the disease in a region where 173 cases of measles were reported between December 2018 and April 10 and unvaccinated students are not being allowed to attend school.

“We’re trying to tell people what the danger is,” said John Fella, president of RAM and deputy commissioner of the county’s Department of Social Services. “Measles can be dangerous for young children, for pregnant women, and for unborn children. If children aren’t immunized, they can’t go to school during this outbreak.”

Approximately 18,000 measles, mumps and rubella vaccines — also referred to as MMR vaccines — have been administered to individuals throughout the county, Fella said. The county also has set up free clinics through its Department of Health, which has 27 RAM members among 200 employees. The Communicable Disease team is the unit within the Health Department charged with handling this outbreak.

“We recognize there are different thoughts about vaccination, but clearly this is for the greater good of the community,” Fella said. “Since the outbreak of measles in the county, the Department of Health has aggressively reached out to educate the public regarding the symptoms of measles; encouraging immunization of children between the ages of 1-6.”

Legal notices also were posted in local schools and public areas.

The county employees have been joined in combatting the measles outbreak by school and hospital health care professionals who are caring for patients with measles and striving to continue to educate the public. Many of these health care providers are members of NYSUT, and are represented by the Health Care Professionals Council, which is holding its annual forum this weekend in Albany.

john fella
“We’re trying to tell people what the danger is,” said John Fella, president of RAM and deputy commissioner of the county’s Department of Social Services. Photo provided.

Nationwide, the Center for Disease Control reports 465 cases of measles this year. The heaviest hit areas are in New York. The last outbreak of measles was in 2000.

“That outbreak was not as severe as what the county is experiencing in 2018-2019,” Fella said.

A measles infection can last for several weeks. Symptoms typically start seven to 14 days after exposure. Measles is marked by flat, red spots and rashes. It is very contagious and for a person who is not immune, it can be contracted merely by being in a room where a person with measles has been.

The disease can spread through the air when a person coughs or sneezes, even up to several hours after that person has left the room. Measles also can be caught from an infected person even before they have symptoms — from four days before they have a rash to four days afterward, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Confirmed incidents of measles in Rockland County per age-group populations are:

  • 14.3 percent among children under a year old;
  • 28.6 percent for children 1-3 years;
  • 16.1 percent for children 4-6 years old;
  • 26.8 percent for children age 7-18; and
  • 14.3 percent for people age 19 years and older.


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