CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - The health department in Pinellas County is investigating a case of measles reported in a child who was unvaccinated.
Health officials did not release additional information about the infection but said they are working with community health care partners to identify and notify anyone potentially exposed to the measles.
Symptoms of the measles are high fever that could spike to 105 degrees, cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and a blotchy rash that spreads from head to the feet.
The virus is easily spread by air droplets when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes.
Those who have not been vaccinated should get the vaccine, health officials say.
"We are continuing to investigate, but we would like families to know that their children could be exposed to diseases like measles anywhere and unless they're protected with vaccination they are risking potentially serious health effects for their child," said DOH-Pinellas Director Dr. Ulyee Choe, an infectious disease specialist. "We encourage all parents to fully vaccinate their children to protect them from diseases like measles."
Children should receive two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine from age 12 through 15 months and again at ages four through six years, health officials say.
Adults should be vaccinated with at least one dose of MMR and a secondary dose is recommended for those who travel internationally or work in health care.
Maggie Hall, Public Information Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County said these cases are not at all common. "We have not had a measles case in Pinellas since 1998 and really, only one case since 1997," Hall said. "We kind of grew up hearing, 'oh, it's just a little rash, it's something everybody gets,' but, it can be a very serious disease."
Once exposed, FOX 13 Medical Reporter Dr. Joette Giovinco said, on average, it can take 10 to 12 days to see symptoms. "People who are in close contact with someone who has the measles, about 90% will catch it if they are unvaccinated," Giovinco said. "It's spread from the nose, it's spread from the mouth in droplets, they can get into the air, they can linger in the air for 2 hours, they an also linger on surfaces for 2 hours as well."
Cost does not have to be a barrier for getting vaccinated. The Florida VFC Program provides vaccines to children, through 18 years of age, at no cost.
For more information, head to www.floridahealth.gov/measles.