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A Polk adult has the measles as the state advises doctors about a 'travel-related' case

 The most prominent symptom of measles is a rash on the face and neck that can spread to the rest of the body. Prior to the rash, symptoms can include high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.
The most prominent symptom of measles is a rash on the face and neck that can spread to the rest of the body. Prior to the rash, symptoms can include high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

Florida’s measles outbreak, first identified at a Broward County elementary school 10 days ago, has made its way to Polk County, according to the state Department of Health.

As of Tuesday morning, Florida has 10 confirmed cases.

One confirmed case of the highly contagious disease was reported by someone 20 to 24 years old in Polk County, the department reported Sunday on its Reportable Diseases Frequency Report.

In a public notice to health care providers Friday, the department confirmed a “travel-related case in Central Florida” but did not say when it was acquired or whether the travel occurred domestically or in another country.

Cases are assigned to where to the patient lives, not where the illness was acquired.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more measles cases can occur due to an increase in the number of people who get measles abroad and bring it into the U.S. or further spread in communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.

In addition to the Polk case, two more infections involving children were reported over the weekend in Broward and may be related to the outbreak at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston.

According to the disease database, the cases involve a child younger than 5 and a child 5 to 9 years old.

Seven cases have been confirmed at the school. On Feb. 16, an infection was reported in a third-grader with no history of travel, according to a notice to health care providers from Dr. Paula Thaqi, director of the Broward health department.

Three other cases at the school were confirmed Feb. 17, and one each on Feb. 18 and 19. Three were children age 5 to 9 and three were age 10 to 14. Another case involved a child under 5 and it was unknown if it was directly connected to the school.

It's unknown whether the children were vaccinated.

The health department said it was conducting an epidemiological investigation and working with the school district and hospitals to identify contacts at risk of transmission.

In 2022, Florida recorded only two cases, one in Miami-Dade County and another in Seminole County.

According to the CDC, 35 measles cases have been reported in 15 states and jurisdictions this year through Thursday : Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

That includes an outbreak of at least eight cases in Philadelphia last month.

The World Health Organization defines an outbreak as five or more cases contracted from somebody with a confirmed case.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and the risk of contracting it remains low, health officials say. However, WHO recently noted global cases have trended up the past few years, with more than 300,000 in 2023, a 79% increase from the previous year.

Most U.S. cases can be traced to exposure in another country. However, declining vaccination rates – especially among school-age children – are jeopardizing herd immunity and increasing the risk of outbreaks, health officials say.

Only about a quarter of Florida’s counties had reached the 95% threshold at which communities are considered well-protected against measles outbreaks, according to the most recent data posted by the health department in 2022.

In Broward, about 92% of children in kindergarten had received routine immunizations against measles, chickenpox, polio and other diseases. The remaining 8% included more than 1,500 kids who had exemptions, as of 2022.

Last week, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo wrote in a letter to parents and guardians about the Broward outbreak that it is “normally recommended” for people who have been exposed to measles and who are not vaccinated against the virus or who do not have a history of infection to stay home for up to 21 days, the length of the incubation period for measles.

However, his letter leaves it up to parents and guardians to decide whether to keep their kids home from school without urging a need to get the measles vaccine.

Those recommendations are contrary to CDC guidance and brought criticismfrom many in the health community, including the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The most prominent symptom of measles is a rash on the face and neck that can spread to the rest of the body. Prior to the rash, symptoms can include high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

If you notice any of symptoms, contact your health care provider to receive instructions on how to safely seek medical attention without exposing other patients, health officials say. Do not abruptly visit a provider without contacting them ahead of time.

Friday's notice to health care workers advises that suspected cases “are required to be reported immediately” to county health departments or the state’s Bureau of Epidemiology “to ensure prompt response and public health efforts.”

Information from Minnesota Public Radio and KFF Health News was used in this report.

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.
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