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Should you worry about measles in South Florida? What to know as school cases found

Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald on

Published in Health & Fitness

It often starts with a cough. Red, watery eyes. A high fever. You might think it’s a normal cold. Perhaps it’s the flu.

But then days later, a rash sets in. Red spots and bumps appear on your face and begin to spread downward, to your neck, chest, legs, arms and feet.

Measles.

“Most physicians that have been practicing in the last 20 years or so have never seen it,” said Dr. Otto Ramos, director of pediatric infectious diseases and virus laboratory at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital near South Miami.

“I have never seen it,” said Ramos, who has practiced medicine for over 40 years.

It’s now back in South Florida, with at least six confirmed cases of measles linked to a Broward elementary school. It’s not the first time cases have popped up in the state.

 

What to know about measles and how it spreads

The highly contagious disease was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000 following an effective and strong vaccination program. The vaccine is required to attend K-12 school in the U.S. And while the disease is now uncommon in the country, outbreaks can sometimes still occur, usually when an unvaccinated traveler falls ill in another country and comes into the U.S., spreading the virus to other unvaccinated people.

Measles can spread through coughing, sneezing and by touching infected surfaces. For those who are vaccinated, infection is rare. For those who previously had measles, you can’t get the infection again.

For Ramos and Ronald Ford, chief medical officer at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, their main concern are for those who don’t have immunity. That includes newborns who aren’t eligible for the shot yet, anyone who is not vaccinated against measles and has not had the infection previously and anyone who is immunocompromised.

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