At Florida School, a 'Preventable' Outbreak

So far, 5 measles cases identified at Manatee Bay Elementary in Broward County's Weston
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2024 9:40 AM CST
At School Where 10% Are Unvaxxed, a Measles Outbreak
Manatee Bay Elementary School, in Weston, Florida.   (Google Maps)

Over the weekend, the Florida Department of Health warned that it was looking into "multiple cases of measles" at an elementary school in South Florida. On Monday, Broward County Public Schools official John Sullivan confirmed that five cases in total had been identified so far at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, noting that the district "is maintaining close coordination with the Health Department to address this ongoing situation," per the Sun Sentinel. The agency noted it was trying to help the district track down anyone who'd been in contact with the infected parties.

The first case emerged at the school on Thursday, said to be a third-grader who hadn't traveled anywhere recently, per CBS News. That and subsequent cases prompted "further preventive measures," including a deep cleaning at the school and new AC filters, says Sullivan, per the Sun Sentinel. NBC6 notes it's not clear if the infected parties were unvaccinated against the infectious disease but that it's "highly likely" that's the case, per experts. Although students who attend public school in Florida are required to have their MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, the Sunshine State is seeing an uptick in allowable religious exemptions.

"Parents today are much more hesitant," pediatrician Lisa Gwynn of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine tells NBC6. "We actually are struggling in our pediatric practices to get kids completely immunized ... because parents are scared, they're kind of feeding into this misinformation." Gwynn added: "It is extremely unfortunate because it's all preventable." The potentially fatal disease, often characterized by a signature rash, is an extremely contagious airborne illness: According to the CDC, 90% of people in proximity to a measles patient will contract measles if they're not vaccinated or wearing masks.

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Per a Broward County study cited by CBS, the vaccination rate at Manatee Bay, which houses students K-5, hovers just under 90%. Last year, Gwynn told NBC6 she feared that suspicion of the COVID-19 vaccine, even from Florida's own surgeon general, had permeated into feelings about other vaccines. "And so we in the pediatric offices are doing everything in our power to educate parents so they understand these things can come back very quickly and the only means to protect their children is to get vaccinated," she said. (More measles stories.)

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