Health Alert: Measles making comeback

Center for Disease Control warns of highest number of measles cases in 17 years


ORLANDO, Fla. – Measles -- it's a disease health officials had announced was eradicated in 2000, but now they warn it's making a comeback.

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The Centers for Disease Control said it used to be that about 60 cases of measles were reported each year.

In 2013 that number was closer to 175.

This year health officials warn we're on track to have the highest number of measles cases in 17 years.

Like many viruses measles is airborne so when an infected person sneezes or coughs the disease spreads.

"Measles is highly contagious if we have one case of measles that person can potentially infect 12 to 18 people by just walking by the door.  Those viruses can get out and can linger up for 2 hour," said Dr. Sarah Matthews the epidemiologist with the Orange County Health Department.

While the disease is popping up across the country, so far, New York City and California are feeling the greatest impact.

But as Matthews said Central Florida is also a tourist hot spot this time of year, and that puts those of us who live here at greater risk.

"We do have a heightened concern. I always say if you live in Central Florida think of us as an international destination," said Matthews.

So how can you prevent the disease?

Get vaccinated.

Adults who can't remember if they were vaccinated as a child should get the shot again.

Infants 6 months through 11 months old should have one dose of measles vaccine and then another two rounds after their first birthday.

But there's another problem.

Debate over childhood vaccines has impacted the number children being inoculated.

"We have seen a trend over the last 5 years where that's increasing," said Matthews. 

Florida is one of 19 states which allows personal belief exemptions for school immunization requirements.

In 2008, the Health Department noted 160 children received that exemption.

Last year that number was up to 490.

"If you decide that's not the right choice for you and we do find a case of measles in your child's school or community setting, in the case we will have that person quarantined for the incubation period," said Matthews.

That means the unvaccinated child would not be allowed in the classroom for up to 21 days.

While measles is usually a fever, runny nose, cough and a full-body rash, doctors warn 30 percent of cases have complications which can be anything from an ear infection to pneumonia and possibly death.

That's why health officials want everyone to take precautions.

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