PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — Four additional cases of the measles have been identified in Pinellas County, according to the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas).
DOH-Pinellas said these new findings now make seven cases of measles in Pinellas. Prior to August, there hadn't been a single case of the measles in 20 years.
Those infected were unvaccinated, according to DOH-Pinellas. Some of the individuals are family members; with one of them reporting international travel.
The cases are no longer contagious, but DOH-Pinellas says the individuals may have come into contact with thousands of people so they are working with community health-care partners to continue their investigation.
They're also encouraging anyone who hasn't received the MMR vaccination to get the shot.
Babies under 15 months old are most at risk of catching the measles because they are too young to get the vaccination.
It's concerning for Nakeysha Fritts, whose 3-month-old daughter Destiny is too young for the shot, making her more susceptible to the highly contagious virus. “It’s really, really scary," Fritts explained.
Maggie Hall, spokesperson for the DOH says it's frustrating to see measles make a comeback after so many years. “Science has eradicated the virus with vaccines, but it's still out there. It just looks for a way to come into your system, and if you don’t have that protection from the vaccine, it gets in," she added.
Hall hopes parents who haven’t vaccinated their kids will reconsider. She says there is no link between vaccines and autism— and the choice some parents are making is putting the entire community at risk.
"The one study they keep pointing to is so outdated and so discredited that it’s not even funny,” she said with a sigh.
Hall says if your baby is under a year old, her best advice: Make sure everyone else in the family, including grandparents, are up to date with a measles shot. She also says good hygiene will go a long way to keep you and your little one safe.
Measles is highly contagious and anyone who catches it is urged to stay away from public places for at least 3 weeks.
Measles is a virus spread by air droplets when infected people breathe, cough or sneeze. The first symptoms are a fever that may spike to 105F, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. The blotchy rash commonly associated with measles appears three to five days later.
Those with up-to-date MMR immunizations have immunity that unvaccinated people do not, according to the DOH-Pinellas. Individuals who are coughing, have a runny nose and red eyes need to contact their health provider, even before they notice a rash associated with measles.