The Florida Department of Health has confirmed that a case of measles has been found in Hillsborough County.
The agency was alerted on Saturday to a man who returned from South America who showed symptoms of the viral disease. He was put in isolation, the diagnosis of measles was confirmed on Tuesday.
There are active investigations regarding others who may have been exposed to the disease.
“We’re hopeful we can prevent other cases,” said Michael Wiese, an epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough. “We’re going to do everything we can to prevent the transmission in our community.”
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. It is usually found in children, though Wiese said it can be contracted at any age, especially after traveling.
The symptoms of measles typically begin approximately seven to 14 days -- but can be up to 21 days -- after a person is exposed. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash.
Health officials say the best way to protect against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases is by immunization beforehand as there is no specific treatment for measles once it is contracted.
In Hillsborough County, children attending public schools are required to be immunized with the combination measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and should receive two doses, with the first at 12 to 16 months of age and the second at four to six years of age.
One dose of the vaccine has a 93 percent effective rate against the disease and two doses at 97 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Measles was declared eliminated (no transmission for greater than 12 months) from the United States in 2000, according to the CDC. This was thanks to the MMR vaccine and “a highly effective vaccination program.”
Cases, however, have had a resurgence in recent years. 2019 saw the largest measles outbreak in the U.S. since 2000 with 1,282 individual cases confirmed in 31 states, including Florida.
The primary reason for this resurgence was people simply not getting the necessary vaccines.
“Across the world, there were various reasons why vaccination rates were starting to drop,” Wiese said. “And as those drop, the spread of the illness continues and unfortunately, we haven’t been able to catch back up to those difficulties in providing vaccines to provide enough coverage to prevent the spread of the disease further.”
For more information, visit www.floridahealth.gov.