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Orlando Health reports 4 measles cases in Orange County involving out-of-state residents

A vial of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is seen in Mount Vernon, Ohio, Friday, May 17, 2019. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 that measles deaths globally spiked by more than 40% last year. The number of cases also rose by nearly 20% after immunization levels dropped to their lowest in 15 years during the COVID pandemic.
A vial of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The national immunization rate for measles is less than 92%, according to Florida's health department.

State officials say there is no outbreak in the region. The cases were made public days after the Florida Department of Health reported its 10th case since mid-February.

Orlando Health reported four measles cases within the past month in Orange County involving out-of-state residents, one adult and three children younger than 2.

State officials tell the Orlando Sentinel there is no outbreak in the region.

The cases were made public days after the Florida Department of Health reported its 10th case since mid-February. That was a travel-related case involving a Polk County adult.

Days before that, the health department in Broward County began an investigation into an outbreak of nine children, seven related to Manatee Bay Elementary 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.

The department’s online database has not added to those 10 cases since Feb. 25. Cases are assigned to where to the patient lives, not where the illness was acquired, per federal guidelines.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, but was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and the risk of contracting it remains low, health officials say. However, the World Health Organization 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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 measles cases have been reported in 16 states and jurisdictions this year through Feb. 29: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

After the Broward outbreak, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo faced heavy criticism from other health experts for telling parents of unvaccinated children that they could choose whether to send their kids to school. That is contrary to federal guidance.

The health department responded to the criticism in a statementposted on social media Feb. 28.

“While details of epidemiological investigations are confidential, many media outlets are reporting false information and politicizing this outbreak. To ensure the communities we serve are correctly informed, we are providing Floridians with the following clarifying information:

“97% of students at Manatee Bay Elementary have received at least one dose of the MMR immunization. Outbreaks are occurring in multiple states, and the national immunization rate for measles is less than 92%.

“When measles is detected in a school, it is recommended that individuals without history of prior infection or vaccination stay home for up to 21 days. This is the period of time that the virus can be transmitted. This recommendation has been made at Manatee Bay Elementary.

“There have not been any additional cases present at Manatee Bay Elementary since February 15, 2024. As such, the end of the infectious period is March 7, 2024. This may change as epidemiological investigations continue.

“The department has also worked with Manatee Bay Elementary to educate parents on measles and ensure that any parent who is concerned for their child, regardless of their immunization status, may choose to keep their children home and utilize continuous learning during this time.

“The department is dedicated to protecting all Floridians as investigations continue. Due to the high immunity rate, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of health children missing school, the surgeon general’s current guidance ensures that parents or guardians are able to make the best decisions for their families regarding school attendance.”

Information from WMFE 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.