Feb 26, 2024 - Health

Measles cases continue growing in Florida

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo during a 2022 press conference. Photo: Alie Skowronski/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

More children have come down with measles in Florida after the state's surgeon general defied federal guidelines by not urging parents to vaccinate their children against the highly contagious virus or to keep unvaccinated students at home.

Why it matters: Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo's stand is an escalation of how conservative officials are flouting public health norms as measles cases surge worldwide, with 15 states reporting cases this year.

Driving the news: Two newly reported infections in Broward County, of a child younger than 5 and another between ages 5 and 9, brought the reported number of cases to eight since Ladapo contradicted federal and medical professional guidance to contain the spread of the disease, per USA Today.

  • After at least six cases were confirmed at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, Ladapo told parents in a letter that the state's health department was deferring to them for "decisions about school attendance" for unvaccinated children.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that unvaccinated students stay home for three weeks after they are exposed — with exposure considered being in the same classroom because of the way measles is transmitted in the air and on surfaces.
  • Around 200 students didn't show up for class on Tuesday or Wednesday, a sign that parents may have decided to keep them home for online classes, according to CBS News.

What they're saying: The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials on Monday expressed concern about outbreaks and endorsed the three-week recommendation after exposure.

  • "While this is undoubtedly disruptive to the persons impacted, imagine how much more disruptive it would be if measles takes hold again in the United States, spreading widely, and impacting children and communities across the entire nation," the group's chief medical officer Marcus Plescia said in a statement.
  • The return of measles is the "canary in the coalmine" for the country's ability to fight the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, vaccine expert Paul Offit told Axios earlier this month.
  • The CDC in January issued an alert to physicians after reports of nearly two dozen preventable cases since December. They were told to look for patients with rash and fever and to pay attention to patients who've recently traveled abroad.

Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

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