ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - There are 2,417 children unvaccinated school-age children in Pinellas County. That’s five times the number in Hillsborough, which has 476.
According to officials in Pinellas County, the children's parents chose to not vaccinate their children for religious or medical reasons. Now, with a nationwide measles outbreak reaching new levels and a spike in cases forcing New York City to declare a public health emergency Tuesday, officials are pleading with parents to protect their children and their peers with vaccinations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 465 cases of measles have been reported in 2019, the second highest rate since the disease was wiped out almost 20 years ago.
“Measles is one of the most contagious viruses known to man. So that was the reason for the whole push for the vaccine,” said Dr. John Morrison, a family physician with AdventHealth Wesley Chapel.
Dr. Morrison said any adult who isn't sure whether they got the vaccine should ask their doctor to check their immunity.
“Typically, it's lifetime [vaccine] but if there's any doubt at all, especially with older folks, if they develop different auto-immune diseases, come in and get tested for the titer because that's key,” said Morrison.
The measles is spread through breathing, coughing, and sneezing. According to the CDC, germ particles from one infected person can linger in the air for up to two hours, even after the person has left the area.
And 9 out of 10 people who are not vaccinated and breathe in those germs will become infected, the CDC says.
Dr. Morrison adds infected persons are contagious four days before a rash develops and four days after. That means an infected person could spread the disease before they even know they have it themselves.
“Folks are contagious four days before the rash develops and four days after, so they need to be isolated,” said Dr. Morrison. “Folks shouldn't be afraid of the vaccine. I think the risk of developing measles far outweighs the risk of anything with the vaccine. It's very safe and effective,”
Following a spike in infection cases, the mayor of New York City is demanding people get vaccinated or face a $1,000 fine. The CDC said travelers to other countries are bringing the disease back and spreading it within unvaccinated communities.
Doctors say the symptoms to watch for include coughing, inflamed throat and nose, a fever, and a rash that appears about 14 days after the person is exposed.
The CDC said unvaccinated children younger than 5, adults over 20, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are “at high risk for severe illness and complications from measles.”
The Florida Department of Health reported handling 15 cases of measles in 2018, and one case so far this year. Seven cases of measles were reported in Pinellas County in August 2018.