Florida Faces Criticism Over Handling Of Measles Outbreak

Mar 18, 2024 at 09:00 am by Matt

A measles outbreak at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Broward County, South Florida, has sparked concern over the state's response. At least nine cases have been reported in Broward County, with an additional case in Polk County, Central Florida.

Critics argue that Florida's approach contradicts established public health protocols. Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida's surgeon general, has refrained from advocating vaccination or quarantine measures for unvaccinated children at the affected school, leaving the decision to parents.

Dr. Ali Khan, dean of public health at the University of Nebraska, expresses confusion over this approach, stressing the importance of evidence-based public health practices. Khan warns against undermining confidence in vaccination and public health measures, citing the increased risk of diseases such as measles.

Measles Is Highly Contagious

Measles, highly contagious, poses a significant risk to unvaccinated individuals. Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, highlights the ease of measles transmission, with up to 9 out of 10 unvaccinated or non-immune individuals contracting the disease upon exposure.

State data reveals that about 8% of kindergartners in Broward County lack measles vaccination, indicating a notable portion of the population at risk. Despite the relatively low percentage, Plescia emphasizes the potential for a considerable number of children to fall ill due to measles.

Essential Steps To Contain Measles

Dr. Scott Rivkees, a public health professor at Brown University and former Florida surgeon general, outlines essential steps to contain measles outbreaks, including prompt vaccination of exposed individuals within three days and enforcing a 21-day quarantine for those not vaccinated.

Rivkees expresses concern over vaccine skepticism observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which could extend to other preventable diseases like measles. He warns against misconceptions surrounding vaccines, citing the false belief that vaccination can cause measles.

Measles, though rare in the U.S. due to high vaccination rates, can lead to severe complications, including pneumonia and, in rare cases, brain swelling resulting in permanent disabilities. Despite being declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, sporadic outbreaks still occur, often linked to international travel.

The resurgence of measles underscores the importance of upholding vaccination efforts to prevent its spread. Failure to adhere to established public health guidance could exacerbate the incidence of measles and other preventable diseases in communities across the country, emphasizing the need for collective action to protect public health.

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