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Rockland County, New York, has declared a state of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles.

The county, on the Hudson River north of NYC, 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 announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in California, Texas, Washington, and Illinois.

Vaccination rates have dropped steadily all over the country with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious reasons, or because they believe discredited information that vaccines cause autism in children.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said: “We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk.

“This is a public health crisis and it is time to sound the alarm.”

According to the New York Times, the outbreak in Rockland County is largely concentrate 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.

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Ed Day said 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.

According to the CDC, there are 314 cases of measles currently reported in the US, with nearly half of those coming from Rockland County. The authorities had been making steady progress in encouraging religious communities to immunize children but communication had broken down in the last month.


Tribeca Film Festival has withdrawn Vaxxed, a controversial film about the MMR vaccine, festival founder Robert De Niro announces.

On March 25, Robert De Niro stood by his decision to include Vaxxed by anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield in next month’s festival.

The link Vaxxed makes between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism has been widely discredited.

“We have concerns with certain things in this film,” said Robert De Niro.Vaxxed withdrawn from Tribeca Film Festival

Robert De Niro, who has a child with autism, said he had hoped the documentary would provide the opportunity for discussion of the issue.

However, after reviewing the documentary with festival organizers and scientists, the actor said: “We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

Vaxxed was directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, who described it as a “whistle-blower documentary”.

In a statement issued following the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision, Andrew Wakefield and the film’s producer Del Bigtree said that “we have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art and truth”.

The British doctor was the lead author of a controversial study published in 1998, which argued there might be a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease.

Andrew Wakefield suggested that parents should opt for single jabs against mumps, measles and rubella instead of the three-in-one vaccine.

His comments and the subsequent media furor led to a sharp drop in the number of children being vaccinated against these diseases.

The study, first published in The Lancet, was later retracted by the medical journal.

Andrew Wakefield was subsequently found guilty of fraud by the General Medical Council and struck off the medical register.


PKN, a Finnish punk band made up of musicians with learning disabilities, is to represent Finland at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The quartet was chosen by Finnish viewers on February 28 and has now been ranked by bookmakers as among the favorites for the contest.

PKN, whose members have Down’s syndrome and autism, will perform their 85-second song Aina Mun Pitaa (I Always Have To) at the event in Vienna in May.

“Every person with a disability ought to be braver,” singer Kari Aalto said.

“He or she should themselves say what they want and do not want,” he told Finnish broadcaster YLE.PKN Finland Eurovision 2015

PKN – full name Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat (Pertti Kurikka’s Nameday) – will also become the first punk band to compete at Eurovision.

They first got together during a charity workshop and appeared in an award-winning 2012 documentary called The Punk Syndrome.

The song deals with the frustration of the rules of daily life, like having to eat healthily and doing chores like cleaning and washing up.

“We are rebelling against society in different ways, but we are not political,” bassist Sami Helle told The Guardian.

“We are changing attitudes somewhat, a lot of people are coming to our gigs and we have a lot of fans.

“We don’t want people to vote for us to feel sorry for us, we are not that different from everybody else – just normal guys with a mental handicap.”

PKN is 5/1 to win the contest, according to Betfred, making them third favorites behind Italy and Estonia.

Heavy metal band Lordi gave Finland its only Eurovision win to date with Hard Rock Hallelujah in 2006.

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The death of an 18-month-old boy of measles in Germany outbreak has fueled a compulsory vaccination debate.

Health authorities in Berlin registered nearly 600 cases of measles since October 2014.

The boy died in hospital and it was not clear how he contracted the disease, Berlin’s health senator Mario Czaja said on February 23.

The measles outbreak has sparked a debate over whether vaccinations against the disease should be made compulsory.

US authorities are also reporting more than 120 new cases in California.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

The death of the toddler showed that measles continued to be a serious disease, Mario Czaja said. The disease is treatable but can weaken the immune system and cause lung and brain infections.

Authorities in Berlin also confirmed that a secondary school was closed on February 23 after a measles case was reported there.

Since October, the authorities have registered 574 cases, the worst outbreak in more than a decade. The federal health ministry recommends vaccinations but has not made them compulsory.

The jabs are usually administered together with vaccines against other diseases. There have been claims in the past – later discredited – that the vaccines could be linked to autism.

Medical professions and governments around the world say vaccination is safe and recommend it as a preventive measure.

In California, the Department of Public Health has reported an outbreak of measles with 123 registered cases so far. Most of those showing symptoms of the disease were not vaccinated.


Asperger syndrome is a form of autism – a condition which affects how people make sense of the world, and interact with other people.

People with Asperger syndrome tend to have particular difficulty in communicating and interacting socially.

People with Asperger syndrome tend to have particular difficulty in communicating and interacting socially

People with Asperger syndrome tend to have particular difficulty in communicating and interacting socially

They can also have problems understanding or interpreting other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions.

For instance, they have trouble picking up subtle meanings contained in facial expressions and body language.

They tend to like routines, and can sometimes develop obsessive interests.

However, they are often of above average intelligence, and do not have the learning difficulties associated with autism.

It is thought a combination of genetic and environmental factors cause Asperger syndrome, which together impact on brain development.

There is no cure for the condition, but therapy can provide significant help.


According to a recent research, autism begins in the womb.

Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), research suggests.

The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, raises hopes that better understanding of the brain may improve the lives of children with autism.

It reinforces the need for early identification and treatment, says a University of California team.

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego and Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle analyzed post-mortem brain tissue of 22 children with and without autism, all between two and 15 years of age.

Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

They used genetic markers to look at how the outermost part of the brain, the cortex, wired up and formed layers.

Abnormalities were found in 90% of the children with autism compared with only about 10% of children without.

The changes were dotted about in brain regions involved in social and emotional communication, and language, long before birth, they say.

The researchers say their patchy nature may explain why some toddlers with autism show signs of improvement if treated early enough.

They think the plastic infant brain may have a chance of rewiring itself to compensate.

“The finding that these defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of cortex gives hope as well as insight about the nature of autism,” said Prof. Eric Courchesne, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego.

Dr Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), said: “If this new report of disorganized architecture in the brains of some children with autism is replicated, we can presume this reflects a process occurring long before birth.

“This reinforces the importance of early identification and intervention.”

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Susan Boyle has revealed she has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The Scottish singer, who shot to fame after appearing on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, had spent years believing she suffered slight brain damage at birth.

Susan Boyle, 52, told The Observer of her relief at finally getting a “clearer understanding” of her condition.

She added: “It will not make any difference to my life.”

Susan Boyle shot to fame after appearing on Britain's Got Talent in 2009

Susan Boyle shot to fame after appearing on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009

Asperger’s is a form of autism which typically means people with the condition struggle with their emotions and have difficulty in social situations, often unable to pick up on non-verbal cues.

Susan Boyle revealed she was misdiagnosed after complications at birth.

She said: “It was the wrong diagnosis when I was a kid.

“I was told I had brain damage. I always knew it was an unfair label. Now I have a clearer understanding of what’s wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself.”

Susan Boyle has gone on to become one of the best-selling British female artists and recently had a cameo role in the festive film The Christmas Candle.

A new genetic study in Iceland has added to evidence that the increase in some mental disorders may be due to men having children later in life.

An Icelandic company found the number of genetic mutations in children was directly related to the age of their father when they were conceived.

One prominent researcher suggested young men should consider freezing their sperm if they wanted to have a family in later life.

The research is published in Nature.

According to Dr. Kari Stefansson, of Decode Genetics, who led the research, the results show it is the age of men, rather than women, that is likely to have an effect on the health of the child.

“Society has been very focused on the age of the mother. But apart from [Down’s Syndrome] it seems that disorders such as schizophrenia and autism are influenced by the age of the father and not the mother.”

The increase in some mental disorders may be due to men having children later in life

The increase in some mental disorders may be due to men having children later in life

Dr. Kari Stefansson’s team sequenced the DNA of 78 parents and their children.

This revealed a direct correlation between the number of mutations or slight alterations to the DNA, of the child and the age of their father.

The results indicate that a father aged 20 passes, on average, approximately 25 mutations, while a 40-year-old father passes on about 65. The study suggests that for every year a man delays fatherhood, they risk passing two more mutations on to their child.

What this means in terms of the impact on the health of the child is unclear. But it does back studies that also show fathers are responsible for mutations and that these mutations increase with age.

And, for the first time, these results have been quantified and they show that 97% of all mutations passed on to children are from older fathers.

“No other factor is involved which for those of us working in the field is very surprising,” said Dr Stefansson.

He added that the work backed other studies that have found links between older fathers and some mental disorders.

“The average age of fathers has been steeply rising [in industrialized countries] since 1970. Over the same period there has been an increase in autism and it is very likely that part of that rise is accounted for by the increasing age of the father,” he said.

The findings should not alarm older fathers. The occurrence of many of these disorders in the population is very low and so the possible doubling in risk by having a child later in life will still be a very low risk.

Nearly all children born to older fathers will be healthy. But across the population the number of children born with disorders is likely to increase if this theory holds true.

Older fathers and therefore genetic mutations have been linked with neurological conditions because the brain depends on more genes for its development and regulation.

So mutations in genes are more likely to show up as problems in the brain than in any other organ. But it is unclear whether the age of fathers has an effect on any other organ or system. The research has not yet been done.

The reason that men rather than women drive the mutation rate is that women are born with all their eggs whereas men produce new sperm throughout their adult life. It is during sperm production that genetic errors creep in, especially as men get older.

Writing a commentary in the Journal Nature, Prof. Alexey Kondrashov, of University of Michigan, said young men might wish to consider freezing their sperm if future studies showed there were other negative effects on a child’s health.

“Collecting the sperm of young adult men and cold storing it for later use could be a wise individual decision. It might also be a valuable for public health, as such action could reduce the deterioration of the gene pool of human populations,” he said.

Dr. Kari Stefansson, however, said that from a long-term perspective the decision by some men to have children later in life might well be speeding up the evolution of our species.

“The high rate of mutations is dangerous for the next generation but is generating diversity from which nature can select and further refine this product we call man,” he said.

“So what is bad for the next generation may be good for our species in general.”