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Florida Surgeon General Criticized For Handling Measles Outbreak

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo gestures as speaks to supporters and members of the media before a bill signing by Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon, Fla. Florida'

Florida's surgeon general is facing criticism for his response to a measles outbreak at Manatee Bay Elementary School near Fort Lauderdale. The outbreak, which affected six students, prompted the surgeon general to send a letter to parents of unvaccinated children, stating that it was their choice whether their students attended class, contrary to federal guidelines calling for mandatory exclusion.

The letter acknowledged the recommendation that unvaccinated students be kept home for three weeks during a measles outbreak due to the high likelihood of infection. However, the state health department decided not to mandate this exclusion, citing the high immunity rate in the community and the burden on families and educational costs of healthy children missing school.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines require the exclusion of unvaccinated children during an outbreak, states are not obligated to follow these recommendations. This decision has drawn criticism from medical professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, who emphasize the importance of following public health and safety measures to contain outbreaks.

Measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus, spreads through respiratory droplets and can remain infectious in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours. Vaccination is highly effective in preventing measles, with vaccinated individuals experiencing milder symptoms and lower contagion rates.

Despite the rarity of measles outbreaks in the United States, the recent increase in reported cases underscores the importance of vaccination in preventing the spread of the disease. Unvaccinated individuals, particularly children, face a higher risk of severe complications from measles, including pneumonia, brain swelling, and even death.

Public health experts emphasize the importance of vaccination in protecting vulnerable populations, such as infants, individuals with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. Measles vaccinations have significantly reduced the number of cases since their introduction in 1963, highlighting the critical role of immunization in preventing infectious diseases.

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