measles

Measles Outbreak In Florida Has Health Officials And Parents Concerned 

As of Monday this week, health officials in Broward County, Florida have confirmed eight cases of the measles virus, including one in a child under the age of 5.

The outbreak has mainly been traced to the Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, near Fort Lauderdale, which the 5-year-old patient doesn’t have a direct connection to. However, experts knew that with a virus like this, spreading to various age-groups in different areas is almost guaranteed, according to reports from NBC News.

According to Dr. David Kimberlin, the co-director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “cases are not going to stay contained just to that one school, not when a virus is this infectious.”

So far in 2024, there have been at least 35 cases of the measles reported across 15 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Florida’s outbreak is the biggest in the US. 

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Experts are warning parents about just how contagious measles is, especially with its long incubation period. Health officials are warning residents to take it seriously, and that State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo’s decision to let parents decide whether or not to quarantine their children or continue to allow them to go to school, will likely allow cases to spread. 

“Measles is the most infectious pathogen in humans that we know of. It’s like a heat-seeking missile. It will find the people who are not immune, and they’re going to get sick.”

NBC News also reported that unvaccinated individuals have a 90% chance of becoming infected if exposed to the measles virus. Katelyn Ketelina tracks illnesses for a website called “Your Local Epidemiologist,” and she stated that “Epidemiology 101 is identify and isolate. This is especially true for outbreaks of measles because of how incredibly contagious the virus is and the fact that people who are infected can spread it for up to three weeks.”

Dr. Ladapo wrote a letter sent to parents at the elementary school last week, stating: “Due to the high immunity rate in the community, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of healthy children missing school, DOH is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.” 

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Back in 2022, Ohio experienced its own measles outbreak where 85 children, mainly unvaccinated toddlers, were infected. 42% of those children had to be hospitalized, and when the outbreak began, Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts took a different approach to advising parents.

Roberts encouraged parents of unvaccinated children who became infected to have their kids receive one dose of the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine as a “form of post-exposure prophylaxis.” Kids who received the treatment would only need to quarantine for 72 hours, as opposed to the 21-day quarantine requirement for those who remained unvaccinated. 

The MMR vaccine offers 97% protection against infection. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 measles patients are hospitalized, and 1 in 3 out of every 1,000 patients will die. 

“More and more people are questioning vaccines and why people need vaccines. They’re gonna find out pretty soon,” said Dr. Kimberlin.