Traveler With Measles: Latest Confirmed Case Reported in Florida

n adult international traveler who attended a conference in Kissimmee before being hospitalized in Miami was confirmed to have had measles by the Department of Health in Florida yesterday.

The unidentified person stayed at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center from March 16 through March 17, 2015 and spent most of the time in Osceola County but also visited Miami-Dade, Orange and Sarasota counties between March 14 and 20 while infectious, according to this article written by Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel.

This is reportedly the fifth case of measles reported in the state of Florida in 2015.

“Measles are making a comeback in the United States,” said the nurse who administered my vaccinations for yellow fever and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis on Monday, January 26, 2015.

From January 1 to March 20, 2015, 178 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles — 120 of them alone from the state of California mainly due to an outbreak of measles at Disneyland, according to the official Internet web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the current rate, 2015 will surpass the 644 cases of measles reported in the United States for all of 2014 by at least 75 — including a confirmed case of measles infection in a traveler who was at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in September of 2014.

Although the risk to the general public is low due to immunity to measles through vaccination, if you were in the aforementioned locations in Florida at approximately the same times as the international traveler diagnosed with measles, you are advised to:

  • Find out if you have been vaccinated for measles or have had measles previously; and
  • Call a health care provider promptly if you develop an illness with fever or illness with an unexplained rash between March 14, 2015 and March 24, 2015
  • To avoid possibly spreading measles to other patients, do not go to a clinic or hospital without calling first to tell them you want to be evaluated for measles

 

Measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease which can cause fever, rash and cough — as well as red and watery eyes. It is mainly spread through the air after a person diagnosed with measles coughs or sneezes.

Measles symptoms begin seven to 21 days after exposure. It is contagious from approximately four days before the rash appears through four days after the rash appears. People can spread measles before they have the characteristic measles rash.

People at highest risk from exposure to measles include those who are unvaccinated, pregnant women, infants under six months of age and those with weakened immune systems.

If you are unfortunate enough to contract measles — the disease considered to have been officially eliminated in the United States back in 2000 — you will most likely recover within two weeks; but according to this information from the official Internet web site of WebMD, “…measles can sometimes cause dangerous problems, such as lung infection (pneumonia) or brainswelling (encephalitis). In rare cases, it can even cause seizures or meningitis.”

This is one of those rare times where washing your hands properly may not be completely effective. I normally do not advocate medication; but this could be one of those exceptions where if you did not already have measles and you have not been vaccinated against the disease, you might want to consider getting a measles shot — especially if you travel internationally.

For the record, I have no intention of being vaccinated for measles in the foreseeable future — despite heavy international travel in recent months.

Even if you are protected from measles, you could spread it to those people who are not protected from contracting it. One simple way to prevent the spread of the disease is to cover your mouth as best as possible when you cough, sneeze or yawn — especially in closed quarters such as aboard an airplane — preferably with your arm or sleeve. Also, do not share the same food or beverages with another person.

In the meantime — despite the most recent outbreaks and reported cases of measles — there is no reason to panic at this time…

…especially if you take the proper precautions to protect yourself and other people against contracting measles.

As for the latest reported case in Florida, the Department of Health in Florida is reportedly working with conference organizers and establishments to notify all the attendees and others who might have been exposed, according to the aforementioned article in the Orlando Sentinel.

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