Issue spotlight: Measles in Miami

THE ISSUE: Last month, a Johns Hopkins study identified Miami-Dade County as the third county in the U.S. most likely to experience a measles outbreak in 2019. Cook County, Illinois, (home to Chicago) tops the list, followed by Los Angeles County.

Data including non-medical exemption rates, anonymous full-route passenger travel data from all international airports, population and size, and location of measles outbreaks globally led to the research team’s list.

AM I PROTECTED? If you were born between 1957 and 1989, double check your immunization records.If you can’t find those records, chat with your doctor about getting vaccinated. Many people born during those years only received one dose of the vaccine because that was the recommendation at the time. In 1989, the CDC updated its guidelines, recommending two doses. Today, the CDC says that children should receive their first dose at 12 months, and the second dose between four to six years old.

Those with live-long immunity, according to the CDC, are those who received two doses of the vaccine as kids and older adults who contracted measles as a child.

HOW TO SPOT MEASLES: Measles, a respiratory virus, is one of the most contagious viruses known to mankind.

According to Dr. Agueda Hernandez, Program Director for Baptist Health, WKBH/FIU Family Medicine Residency, doctors are taught to think of the three Cs. Basic symptoms include cough, coryza (a runny nose), and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Additional symptoms are a rash in the mouth, high fever, and a rash on the outside of the body, starting at the face and moving down.

People can be infectious for up to four days before they have the rash.

QUOTABLE: “I’m afraid that this is the beginning. We’re seeing measles now. We may see polio next. These diseases that caused a lot of morbidity and death in the past that we, I think, have a degree of complacency because we didn’t see that as a population,” Dr. Hernandez said. “I think folks hopefully will re-examine their stance on vaccines, because the evidence is clear that vaccines do not cause autism. I saw this catchphrase somewhere and it gets the point across: ‘Vaccines cause adults.’”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The definition of a measles outbreak is when there are three or more confirmed measles cases reported in a population of 100,000 in one month. For Miami, that would mean over a dozen people would have to be infected. For a person who is infected, they can infect an average of 18 other people.

The best way to fight measles, says Dr. Hernandez, is receiving vaccinations. For detailed information on vaccination guidelines, who and when should get their shots – and who shouldn’t – visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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