Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Five cases of measles confirmed in Florida school outbreak

Six people have been diagnosed with measles in an outbreak at the Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, Florida.

The Florida Department of Health in Broward County announced in a notice to local health care providers on Friday that a third grader with no history of travel had been diagnosed. Three other measles cases at the elementary school were confirmed on Saturday, followed by one on Monday and the latest on Tuesday. The ages or grades of those other patients have not been released. 

The county health department issued an advisory Sunday saying that it was “working with all partners, including Broward County Public Schools and local hospitals, to identify contacts that are at risk of transmission.”

It’s not publicly known whether those infected were vaccinated, NBC 6 South Florida reported. Two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine are 97% effective.

John J. Sullivan, communications and legislative affairs officer for the Broward County Public School District, said in a statement on Monday that, over the weekend, it “took further preventive measures by conducting a deep cleaning of the school premises and replacing its air filters.” 

Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, Fla.Google Maps

Manatee Bay Elementary School referred NBC News to the school district for information about the outbreak.

The district said the school followed its regular schedule on Tuesday, then learned of the sixth case in the evening.

“We expect to receive further guidance from the Florida Department of Health tomorrow and will continue to keep the school and its families updated with the latest information,” it said in a statement.

The health department in Broward County said in a statement that it is “carrying out an epidemiological investigation” of the measles outbreak and working to identify close contacts of those diagnosed, but that “all details regarding the investigation are confidential.”

In the 2022-23 school year, Florida’s statewide MMR vaccination rate was around 91%, compared to the national rate of 93%, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. rate has declined from 95% since the 2020-21 school year. The World Health Organization considers 95% the threshold necessary for herd immunity from measles.

Measles is highly contagious. Symptoms typically begin to appear a week or two after infection, and can include a cough, runny nose, fever and red, watery eyes. Small, white spots may appear inside the mouth a couple days later, followed by a rash consisting of flat, red spots that start on the face and spread to the neck, torso and limbs.

One in 5 unvaccinated people in the U.S. who get measles are hospitalized with severe complications. As many as 1 in 20 children with measles develop pneumonia, the leading cause of death for those in the age group who get the disease. People who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised also face a risk of swelling in the brain or death.

As of Thursday, 20 measles cases had been reported across 11 states already this year, including an outbreak of at least eight cases in Philadelphia last month, according to the CDC. Last month, the agency issued a warning to health providers to be on the lookout for more cases. Last year, 58 cases were reported in total.

Dr. Charles Mitchell, a professor of pediatric infectious disease at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said the recent measles outbreaks may be the result of growing vaccine hesitancy. 

“My suspicion is that there is unfortunately some questioning of utility or the acceptance of vaccines,” Mitchell said Tuesday afternoon. “I think going forward, I would not be surprised if we begin to see the recurrence of these cases. I mean, the fact that you have five cases of measles at this one elementary school suggests to me that the rate of vaccination may have fallen off.” 

Mitchell emphasized that the MMR vaccine is especially crucial because there aren’t any treatments or cures for measles. 

“I suspect that some people have lost their fear,” Mitchell added. “I don’t think they remember what it was like back in the ’60s or ’70s.”

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