Following additional cases of measles from international travelers to Rockland County, many Rockland BOCES parents and staff members have expressed concern about a potential outbreak of the illness.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing. The virus can survive in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours. The illness starts with a runny nose, red eyes, sore throat, cough and fever. The first symptoms of measles are the same as for many other upper respiratory infections. The disease is easily spread before it is recognized.

The upper respiratory symptoms are followed by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Complications include pneumonia, ear infections, diarrhea and encephalitis. Very young children, adults and immune-compromised persons are at more risk for severe complications. Measles is so contagious that 90% of people who lack immunity will contract the disease when exposed to an infected person (CDC).

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine has been highly successful in eliminating the disease (CDC). It is a safe and effective vaccine. New York State Public Health Law 2164 requires all students who attend public school be age-appropriately immunized.

New York State public health law allows a medical exemption when a valid medical contraindication to a vaccination exists. Any medical exemption must be signed by a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York. State public health law allows religious exemptions. Families requesting a religious exemption must provide a notarized statement explaining their sincere and genuine beliefs prohibiting them from meeting the immunization requirements. New York State public health law does not allow philosophical exemptions. New York State allows for documentation of immunity that includes either an antibody titer or practitioner documentation of the disease.

Rockland BOCES provides ongoing surveillance for illness in our schools. Students who are unimmunized may be excluded from school if there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable communicable disease, such as measles or pertussis (whooping cough). Rockland BOCES administrators work closely with the Rockland County Department of Health to implement appropriate communicable disease management.

For more information about measles, click here.