Measles Outbreak: 8 Westchester County children diagnosed with measles; Areas in Rockland County at risk for exposure

WESTCHESTER COUNTY (WABC) -- The measles outbreak affecting communities in Rockland County and Brooklyn has spread to Westchester County, where officials confirm there have been eight cases -- all children and six from the same family.

All of the patients are from Northern Westchester, and none of them attend public schools or childcare programs. They range in age from 6 months to 14 years.

The Westchester County Department of Health is working with the families and healthcare providers to identify locations where the children may have exposed others. The children, who were not vaccinated, appear to have been exposed to measles in Rockland County and Brooklyn where there have been ongoing outbreaks.

Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler urged parents of non-vaccinated children to make it a priority for their children to receive the MMR vaccine, which covers measles, mumps and rubella.

"With the increasing number of measles cases in our surrounding area, I strongly urge all parents who have not vaccinated their children against measles to reconsider," Dr. Amller said. "Measles is highly contagious, and nine out of 10 people who are not immune and are exposed to measles will become infected.

WATCH: Measles in Westchester County - Official briefing

Anyone who has not been vaccinated can get the vaccine free through the Westchester County Health Department. Call 914-995-5800 for an appointment.

"People can spread measles before they even know they are sick," Dr. Amler said. "People without immunity can catch measles just by being in a room for up to two hours after a person with measles has left. Measles can be a serious infection which can result in pneumonia, swelling of the brain, hearing loss and death."

Measles is a viral disease that starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat, which is followed by a rash that spreads over the body. It lasts a few days in most cases, but complications are possible.

There have been 285 cases in New York City since the outbreak began last October, as well as 193 cases in Rockland County. There have been no fatalities, and only three measles-related deaths in the past two decades.

On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency and took the rare step of ordering mandatory vaccinations in several neighborhoods.

The order applies to anyone living, working or going to school in four zip codes in Williamsburg (11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249) and requires all non-vaccinated people who may have been exposed receive the MMR vaccine, including all children over 6 months

Under the mandatory vaccinations, members of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will check the vaccination records of any person who may have been in contact with infected patients. The city can't legally physically force someone to get a vaccination, but those who have not received the MMR vaccine or do not have evidence of immunity may be given a violation and could be fined $1,000.

The order raises questions about the legality of mandating vaccines, and New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman issued the following statement:

"Public health law authorizes the city to take action to address public health emergencies through containment and isolation of affected people. The city's order provides that people will be vaccinated without their consent, an extreme measure which is not provided for in the law and raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment. In addressing this public health crisis, the government is required to pursue the least restrictive means possible to balance individual autonomy with the public health risk. In this case, measures such as a quarantine or penalties for non-vaccination may be permissible, but forced vaccination is not."

Meanwhile, in Rockalnd County, the health department is notifying residents of possible measles exposures. If you visited the following areas or used the following taxis at these times, you may be at risk:
-- Spring Valley Drug Pharmacy, located at 180 E. Central Avenue, Spring Valley on Thursday, April 4 from 1:44 p.m. to 1:46 pm with risk of exposure until 3:46 pm, and on Friday, April 5 from 2:10 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. with a risk of exposure until 4:30 p.m.
-- Hudson Valley Radiology, located at 18 Squadron Blvd., New City on Thursday, April 4 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., with risk of exposure until 7:15 p.m.
-- International Taxi that initially traveled to Hudson Valley Radiology, located at 18 Squadron Blvd., New City Thursday, April 4 from 3:50 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a risk of exposure until 6:30 p.m.
-- International Taxi that initially traveled from Hudson Valley Radiology, located at 18 Squadron Blvd., New City on Thursday, April 4 from 5:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. with a risk of exposure until 7:45 pm.
-- La Familia Taxi that initially traveled from Refuah Health Center, located at 728 N. Main Street, Spring Valley, on Thursday, April 4 from 1:00 p.m. to 1:06 p.m. with a risk of exposure until 3:06 p.m.

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