ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Health Officials are warning about a measles epidemic that they say is putting everyone in Central Florida at risk.
The announcement comes after four kids in Orange County-- all from the same family-- came down with the highly contagious virus.
"If it's an epidemic yeah it would be scary," said Wendi Barnard, who was playing with her young son at Lake Eola park.
In fact, measles is so rare and can be so dangerous that just one case in Central Florida is considered an epidemic. Symptoms include everything from runny nose, rash to swelling of the brain and death. There is no treatment.
"With measles, it's very highly contagious so it's easily spread from person to person," said Sara Matthews, with the Orange County Health Department. "It's a respiratory virus so coughing, sneezing and it can stay in the air for up to 2 hours after the person who's contagious has left."
Matthews says the four infected kids-- ages 4, 7, 10 and 13-- are all now recovering.
Out of privacy, health officials would not identify where in Orange County the infected family lives or which daycare or private school the kids attend, but parents of other students have been notified.
"In this case, the family had chosen not to vaccinate all four of the kids and that's what made them really highly susceptible to the measles virus," said Matthews.
Health officials are still trying to find the source of the outbreak and whether there are any more cases.
"I think of the measles and I just think long ago nothing we have to deal with," said Shannon Woodrow, a Central Florida mother of three who was surprised to hear of the outbreak.
"I mean it could cause death and then not only that... it could spread to other children," said Barnard.
The last time there was a measles case in Orange County was in spring 2011. Health officials highly recommend anyone in Central Florida to be vaccinated. They say due to the high level of international tourists and the growing trend of parents not vaccinating their children, we could see more and more cases of the measles. However, who have received a measles vaccine or have had measles in the past, are likely immune to the virus.
The symptoms of measles generally begin approximately seven to 14 days after a person is exposed and include:
- Blotchy rash
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Feeling run down, achy (malaise)
- Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth (Koplik's spots)
Measles is spread through the air by infectious droplets and is highly contagious. It can be transmitted from four days before the rash becomes visible to four days after the rash appears.
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