FDOH urges Florida residents to get vaccinated against measles

FDOH: 4 cases of measles identified, reported among travelers

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health said it is working with other state and federal officials to monitor individuals who may have been exposed to measles cases across the state.

Four cases of measles have been identified and reported among travelers in the past two weeks with unknown or no measles vaccinations who visited Florida, health officials said. Two cases involved international travelers.

"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 Dr. John Armstrong. "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."

While there are no confirmed cases currently among Florida residents, people who may have come into contact with infected individuals are being notified and counseled, according to FDOH.

The department said it is working closely with the medical provider community in an effort to maintain its current level of readiness to identify cases and respond to any diagnosed cases of measles in Florida.

"The smartest step any resident can take to protect themselves against this growing health threat is to get vaccinated," said Dr. Alan Pillersdorf, president of the 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."

FDOH officials said the most effective form of protection from this virus is through vaccination. Children should be immunized against measles with the combination measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and should receive two doses, with the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age.

People with underlying health conditions should discuss with their health care provider to determine the need for additional booster doses. The department said it encourages all Floridians who have not been immunized to get vaccinated immediately.

"In Florida, more than 93 percent of kindergartners are vaccinated against this potentially life-threatening virus," said Dr. Tommy Schechtman, president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "But in a time when vaccines are readily available and safe, every child who can be should be vaccinated. It's our best defense against this re-emerging health care threat and one any responsible parent or guardian should want for their child to keep them healthy."

Measles is very rare in countries and regions of the world where vaccination coverage is high. FDOH officials said there are still sporadic cases of measles in the U.S. because travelers who are not fully immunized can become infected before or during travel abroad and spread the infection to those who are not protected by the vaccine.

Measles is spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing and is highly contagious. It can be transmitted from four days before the rash becomes visible to four days after the rash appears, FDOH officials said.

The symptoms of measles generally begin approximately seven to 14 days after a person is exposed to someone with measles and include:

  • 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)

Anyone who has these symptoms is urged to call their health care provider. Click here for more information.