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Measles vaccine gets spotlight as topic is furiously debated

When news broke this weekend that two unvaccinated students in the Spencerport Central School District had been diagnosed with measles, a question at the top of many parents’ minds was “How do unvaccinated students get into school?”

The answer lies within state law.

While all students entering or attending public, private or parochial school in New York are required to be immune to diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, varicella and meningococcal disease, there are two exemptions to the rule:

– Medical exemptions that require a statement from a physician saying that immunization may be detrimental to the child’s health; and
– Religious exemptions that require a statement from the child’s parent or guardian stating that they object to immunizations due to sincere and genuine religious beliefs.

Officials with the Monroe County Department of Public Health said on Saturday that the two Spencerport students affected had not been vaccinated for the disease. They have been quarantined to their homes and will not return to school until they are well. As a precaution, four other students at the school who have also not been immunized were told not to return to the school until Feb. 13.

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses there are. The illness can be spread by an infected person even before they develop the measles rash, and the virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.

If untreated, measles can lead to brain infections, brain damage and/or death.

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