Florida School Rocked by More Cases of Measles as Parents Skip Vax

Manatee Bay Elementary School Facebook
Manatee Bay Elementary School Facebook

An elementary school in Florida has been hit with a measles outbreak that’s made six students sick, a concerning trend that experts say may soon be seen elsewhere in the country as vaccination numbers against the disease continue to lag.

The outbreak comes weeks after a nationwide alert was sent to physicians warning of an uptick in cases, which have also been reported this year in Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

While measles cases are popping up across the country, nowhere has been hit as hard as Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, just west of Fort Lauderdale. There, a single case reported Thursday spiraled into a half-dozen infected students by Tuesday evening.

School officials said 86 of Manatee Bay’s nearly 1,100 students are not vaccinated against measles, which is a highly contagious airborne disease that can be fatal in children. Measles is a viral infection that can cause a high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes, as well as a rash that spreads from the face downward.

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John J. Sullivan, a spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools, said the school underwent a deep cleaning and was safe for vaccinated students to continue going to class this week.

“As preventative measures, proactive cleanings at the school continue to take place daily,” he said. “In addition, over the weekend, the district conducted a deep cleaning of the school premises and replaced its air filters.”

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo wrote a letter Tuesday that urged the parents of unvaccinated students to keep them home until the school is confirmed to be rid of measles entirely. He said the infectious period would likely be over by March 7, and that the district would provide materials to keep the students learning while they’re physically away from school.

Measles is so contagious, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that “if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.” The center says infected people can spread measles four days before and four days after the disease’s infamous rash appears.

For as contagious as measles is, it also has one of medicine’s most effective vaccines. The CDC says just one dose is about 93 percent effective against the disease, and two doses of a measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine are about 97 percent effective.

The CDC warned late last month that it’d tracked 23 cases of measles that were confirmed in the U.S. over a two-month period that spanned into late last year—nearly all of which involved unvaccinated children.

“The increased number of measles importations seen in recent weeks is reflective of a rise in global measles cases and a growing global threat from the disease,” the center wrote in a statement.

Not including Florida’s recent outbreak, there had been 20 measles cases reported in 11 states in 2024 as of last week, the CDC said. That’s a sharp increase compared to measles cases reported during the same period in 2023, which had just 58 confirmed U.S. cases for the entire year.

U.S. health officials said measles was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, saying it was “no longer constantly present in this country.” A sharp drop in routine childhood vaccinations in the wake of COVID-19 has resulted in the disease appearing more than it did at the turn of the century, however.

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The U.S. reached its highest level of vaccine exemptions in the 2022-23 school year, with about 250,000 kindergartners at risk to measles exposure, the CDC wrote in a recent report. The exemptions are typically for religious, medical or philosophical reasons.

Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News that its specifically unvaccinated children that are causing an increase in outbreaks.

“An outbreak like this is very concerning because measles is a highly infectious disease that can lead to serious health complications, especially in children and immunocompromised individuals,” he said. “It indicates potential gaps in herd immunity, which are vital to preventing the spread of such diseases.”

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