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Pinellas Measles Cases Jump To Seven

Pinellas County health officials are encouraging people to receive vaccinations to protect against the spread of measles
Florida Department of Health Pinellas County
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Pinellas County is in the middle of their first measles outbreak in 20 years, and the number of cases keeps building. Since August 13, there have been seven reported cases in the county, and as of Wednesday, there are nine in the state.

Officials with the said some of the recently infected people are related, with one reporting international travel. They add that the cases are no longer contagious, but they are still investigating.

Jose Montero, an infectious disease physician with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, believes the recent outbreaks have been caused by both increased travel and decreased vaccination.

“When you get vaccinated, you’re protecting yourself, but you’re also protecting the people around you.” He explained that for any disease, you need to have a certain number of people vaccinated in order to prevent it from spreading. Because measles is so infectious, that number has to be quite high.

Montero, who has practiced for over 20 years, says he has never seen a case of measles. He believes the growing number of unvaccinated people is because they just don’t see measles as a real threat. 

“We’ve become a product of our own success,” he said, adding that because there are generations who have never seen a measles outbreak, they start questioning if they really need the protection vaccines provide.

“Unfortunately, there’s misinformation out there, fear and a little bit of complacency because we haven’t seen the virus as a problem,” he said.

Montero said that measles is still prevalent in other parts of the world and because we are now living in a global society, there’s a new risk of reintroduction.

Jill Roberts, an assistant professor at USF’s College of Public Health, puts the responsibility on social media, where many groups advocate against vaccinations. She said that others who would normally vaccinate, see these groups and become convinced that vaccines are dangerous.

“The most important thing is to understand that the vaccine was invented in the first place because measles is dangerous,” Roberts said. “It’s common for people to say ‘oh it’s a childhood rash it’s not a big concern,’ but that’s simply not true.”

Both Montero and Roberts said that getting educated is the best way to tackle the problem.

“Be very careful with where you’re getting your sources of information,” Roberts warned, saying that some are profiting off of causing fear of vaccines.

Copyright 2018 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Bethany Hanson is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.