Measles Reported in Travelers to Florida; Get Vaccinated, State Health Officials Say

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February 3, 2015


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State and federal health officials  are tracking Florida residents who may have been exposed to measles from travelers.

“In the past two weeks, four cases of measles have been identified and reported among travelers with unknown or no measles vaccinations who visited Florida,” Florida Department of Health officials said in a Jan. 31 statement. “Two cases involved international travelers.”

In a Feb. 2 statement, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there have been 102 measles cases from 14 states from Jan. 1 to Jan. 30 of this year.

“Most of these cases are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California,” the CDC says.  

While there are no confirmed cases among Florida residents, locals may have had contact with infected travelers. As a result, Florida health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated against measles.

“It’s important all Floridians make sure they have received the measles vaccination because those who are fully immunized have very little risk of developing the disease,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong, M.D. “The department is prepared to deal with any potential emerging infectious disease threat and is committed to ensuring the safety of all residents and visitors in Florida. Out of an abundance of caution, it is important for those who think they may have been exposed to measles to contact their health care provider for guidance right away.”

There have been outbreaks of measles in the United States since January 2014, the biggest surge since 2000. Measles is the eighth-leading cause of mortality worldwide, and the top vaccine-preventable cause of death among children.

“About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea. Complications are more common in adults and young children,” according to the CDC.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) speculates that some parents are not vaccinating their children intentionally because of safety concerns regarding the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. And that trend may have contributed to the renewal in measles cases, the AAP says.

“The truth is that today’s vaccines are the most effective and safest in history and have protected and saved millions of lives from vaccine – preventable diseases. However, some children are too young or too sick to receive vaccines. And some children do have side effects,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Javier Hiriart, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group internist and pediatrician at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, echoes that sentiment, adding that the greater concern should be exercised with delaying immunizations.

“The risk of not vaccinating is higher than the risk of vaccinating,” said Dr. Hiriart. “There are obviously some side effects that can happen, such as minor fevers, redness or swelling to the injection area or some localized pain. But these are minor and happening infrequently. The benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Vaccination is “the most effective form of protection from this virus,” according to Florida Health officials.  State health officials recommend the following:

“Children should be immunized against measles with the combination measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and should receive two doses, with the first at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second at four to six years of age. People with underlying health conditions should discuss with their health care provider to determine the need for additional booster doses.”

Measles 101: Signs & Symptoms

Measles is a “highly contagious,” air-borne disease, which means it is spread from person-to-person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing.

The transmission period starts from four days before a rash develops, and continues until four days after the rash is visible. In general, symptoms of measles develop about seven to 14 days after you have been exposed to measles. Florida officials offer this list of symptoms:

  • Blotchy rash.
  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Feeling run down, achy (malaise).
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots).
  • Contact your doctor if you have those symptoms, health officials recommend. To learn more, visit www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html.

    “The smartest step any resident can take to protect themselves against this growing health threat is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Alan Pillersdorf, President, Florida Medical Association. “Vaccines are available at your local doctor’s office and at all Local County Health Departments at a minimal cost or free. These vaccines are safe and play a vital role in creating a barrier between the human population and this virus.”

    Related story:Vaccinations: Get the Facts

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