Health & Fitness

Four children in one Florida community have measles. None of them were vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated can help stop measles from spreading

Since measles is still common in many countries, unvaccinated travelers bring measles to the U.S. and it can spread. But you can protect yourself, your family, and your community with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
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Since measles is still common in many countries, unvaccinated travelers bring measles to the U.S. and it can spread. But you can protect yourself, your family, and your community with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County is reporting that four children in the community have been diagnosed with measles.

According to a report in the Herald-Tribune, these children have “close contact to each other” and none of them were vaccinated against the disease, which is easily spread by air droplets that are pushed out into the immediate vicinity of others when the infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes.

Measles should be taken seriously. The medical community warns that measles — which eventually take the form of a blotchy rash that can run head to toe — can bring on pneumonia, encephalitis and even death.

In Florida, certain vaccines are required before children can enroll and attend childcare and school.

These include, but are not limited to:

Measles-mumps-rubella.

Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (the highly contagious whooping cough).

Inactivated polio vaccine.

Chickenpox.

But some parents still believe that vaccines are harmful and choose to skip them.

According to the Florida Department of Health’s Sarasota County website, diseases like measles that are preventable are still out there, in part because of an aversion to vaccinating one’s child.

“Most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases can have on a child, a family, or community,” the item reads. “Thanks to vaccines, many of these diseases are not common in the U.S. However, they persist around the world and with global travel can reach our community overnight. Measles, whooping cough, and many more potentially life-threatening diseases are still out there.”

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A Venezuelan child receives a vaccination in Boa Vista, Brazil, April 4, 2018. International health officials expressed alarm about a rebound in measles, once nearly eradicated in many regions. Reported cases surged by nearly a third worldwide. MERIDITH KOHUT NYT

Two years ago, the World Health Organization declared Latin America free of measles after a major, decades-long vaccination campaign. But this spring, a virulent outbreak in Venezuela, combined with a mass exodus from the South American country, upended all of that progress. By March, the Pan American Health Organization said Venezuela had seen 1,045 cases of measles between June 2017 and March 2018.

The DOH’s Sarasota branch acknowledged the ongoing international problem. “Outbreaks of measles and whooping cough have been reported in the news especially during the last few years,” the site said.

For instance, this month in a community in New Jersey, health department officials feared 86 people who attended a private event may have been exposed to measles, the Associated Press reported. So far, there are 18 confirmed measles cases and six suspected cases under investigation in that area of Ocean County. Schools there have been advised to not admit children who are not current on their vaccinations.

The story is similar in Florida, the health department says on its website.

“Measles and outbreaks of whooping cough have occurred in Sarasota County and have been linked to individuals who were not vaccinated or updated on their vaccines. The 2009 outbreak in Sarasota County resulted in 20 individuals coming down with whooping cough, which can be fatal in children who are too young to get vaccinated. This compares to four people in 2010 and seven in 2011.”

As to the latest four in Sarasota, Department of Health-Sarasota Health Officer Chuck Henry said in a release obtained by the Herald-Tribune, the department vows to continue their investigation into the source of the infection.

“We would like families to know that their children could be exposed to diseases like measles anywhere and — unless they’re protected with vaccination — they are risking potentially serious health effects for their child. We encourage all parents to fully vaccinate their children to protect them from diseases like measles.”

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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