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Florida Measles Cases Stem From Travelers

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Four cases of measles have been identified in Florida in the past two weeks, all of which involve travelers.

Two of the cases diagnosed involved international travelers, and the infected people had unknown or no measles vaccine, State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong said in a statement.

The Florida Department of Health reports that so far, no state residents have so far been diagnosed with measles, a disease that is experiencing the second-biggest outbreak in the nation in at least 15 years.

"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,” Armstrong said.

“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.”

Credit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Most of the 100 cases diagnosed across the United States since last month have been traced directly or indirectly to Disneyland in Southern California.

Figures released by the California Department of Public Health showed there are now 91 confirmed cases in the state, up from 79 on Wednesday. Of those, 58 infections have been linked to visits to Disneyland or contact with a sick person who went there.

Mexico and at least six other U.S. states - Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Nebraska and Arizona - also have recorded measles cases connected to Disneyland.

Measles, which is spread through the air, is highly contagious. Symptoms include fever, runny nose and a blotchy rash.

Steve Huard is a Public Information Officer at the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County. He says the best thing for people concerned about measles can do is to check their shot records.

"Statistics show that children and just anybody who's had that vaccine in their life is virtually immune to getting measles," he said. " It's the absolute best way to protect yourself."

Most young children are vaccinated against measles. But outbreaks still occur in the United States, usually when travelers pick up the virus abroad and then spread it among unvaccinated people here.

People at highest risk are those who are unvaccinated, pregnant women, infants under 6 months old and those with weakened immune systems.

According to Huard, it's still possible for people who have been vaccinated to get the disease, but it's extremely rare. 

Health officials have not found "patient zero" or the person who triggered the Disneyland-linked outbreak. But they think it's someone who caught the virus outside the country and visited one of the Disney theme parks during the holidays.

Last year, the U.S. saw a record 644 measles infections in 27 states after virtually eliminating the disease in 2000. California typically sees four to 60 cases a year.

Copyright 2015 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Health News Florida is now part of WUSF Public Media in Tampa, Florida.
Megan Milanese is an intern with WUSF’s health reporting project Health News Florida.