Two Florida children contracted measles after the state’s top health official ignored federal advice to contain an outbreak at an elementary school.

Six children at Manatee Bay Elementary School, Westen caught the disease a little over a week ago. New state health data reveals that there’s been two more cases in Broward County. One of them was a child younger than 5 and another between ages 5 and 9.

Measles Outbreak Status Update

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of Friday there have been at least 35 measles cases in the U.S. this year – most related to international travel.

Source: Twitter/@S1776frdm

In January, there were nine cases of measles reported in Pennsylvania. Eight of them were in Philadelphia. If there are no more cases reported there as of early next week, the Philadelphia outbreak will be declared over.

New Measles Cases: Michigan’s First Since 2019

Late Friday, Michigan’s health department announced that it has also identified a measles case. The case is its first since 2019. Florida’s outbreak is the largest in the U.S. right now.

Source: Wikimedia/Senator Stabenow

“Measles is the most infectious pathogen in humans that we know of,” said Kimberlin. She’s the co-director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “It’s like a heat-seeking missile. It will find the people who are not immune, and they’re going to get sick.”

Florida Surgeon General Sparks Controversy

The new infections make it eight in total. This comes just days after Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo went against federal and medical advice to contain the spread of the disease. The highly contagious and preventable disease is resurging globally and in the U.S. Florida is one of the 11 states that have reported cases so far this year.

Source: Twitter/Krystal In FL

Ladapo released a letter last week Tuesday. In the letter, he said Manatee Bay parents and guardians can decide whether or not to send their kids back to school. This statement went against federal and medical professional advice earlier released that advised students to remain at home to prevent the disease from spreading.

Decision Up To Parents And Guardians

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that children who have not been vaccinated and exposed to measles should be isolated for three weeks.

Source: Flickr/Hugh Guill

Ladapo initially agreed with this assessment before concluding that the decision is up to parents or guardians due to the ‘high immunity rate’ and the burden of healthy children missing school. But he did say the state’s recommendation could change.

Concerns Rise Over Ladapo’s Stance

Health experts are worried about his relaxed attitude. “This is a state surgeon general saying that he is not going to enforce any of the tenets of public health in the name of freedom,” said Dr. Paul Offit. He is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Source: News Service Of Florida

The hospital has worked to contain a recent measles outbreak among children in the Pennsylvania city. “He wants freedom at the expense of putting children in harm’s way.” The only freedom Ladapo is upholding is the “freedom to harm,” Offit said.

Against Common Opinion

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tipped Ladapo to be surgeon general in 2021. One of the reasons for this is his vocal opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates and school closures.

Source: Twitter/CatReigning Typo Queen

Last month, Ladapo said that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines pose health risks thus opposing federal approvals and scientific consensus. With the measles outbreak, Ladapo again continues to oppose the consensus.

Experts Advise Isolation And Vaccination

Experts say that isolation and vaccination are the best way to contain the disease. “This is a vaccine-preventable disease,” Dr. Thresia Gambon, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told USA TODAY. “There are very strict guidelines as to what to do in an outbreak in order to contain it quickly.”

Source: Freepik/wirestock

Gambon’s organization, which represents pediatricians in the state, affirms the CDC’s advice that children at the school should have been told to stay away from school and isolate.

Measles; Not To Be Taken Lightly

Measles is not to be taken lightly and can pose a serious risk. About 20 percent of children who get ill end up in the hospital, the CDC said. And 1 in 1,000 can develop encephalitis, or brain swelling that can pose severe neurological effects which could be life-lasting. The mortality rate is around one to three children in a thousand.

Source: Flickr/International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

A full-dose regimen of the vaccine is about 98% effective against measles. About 90% of unvaccinated people who come in contact with the virus will get it.

Another Outbreak Looming?

This shows that the disease is highly contagious. Measles can be transmitted without physical contact. A person can catch it just from droplets resident in the air or resting on surfaces.

Source: Wikimedia/Mike Blyth

At Manatee Bay Elementary, 33 of the school’s 1,067 students have not received the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, said Sullivan, of Broward County Schools.

Really Low Immunization Rates

That means about 97% have been given some percentage of their measles vaccine. Sullivan refused to comment on whether or not the six students who contracted measles had previously been vaccinated because of privacy concerns.

Source: Flickr/Focal Foto

Below 92% of Broward County kindergartners had been immunized as of 2022, in line with state figures. This figure is below national averages-which have dropped in recent years and the U.S. goal of having about 95% of children immunized against the disease.

Parents Withdraw Children Amid Measles Concerns

In the meantime, parents at Manatee Bay have withdrawn their children from school. On Tuesday, 219 students did not attend class in person, Sullivan said. By Friday, some had returned and 159 students remained at home.

Source: Unsplash/Jessica Lewis the painted square

In January, the CDC warned healthcare providers to do more to detect a potential measles spread in their communities amid a global rise in cases.

Favorable Conditions Could Cause An Outbreak

The lack of large outbreaks in the U.S. so far shows that there is still good immunization against measles through vaccines, said Dr. William Moss, executive director of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s International Vaccine Access Center.

Source: Flickr/UN Geneva

But outbreaks could worsen in the more favorable conditions for the disease, Moss said, if enough unvaccinated children are exposed to the virus and they spread measles into a community.