Florida health officials on Sunday announced an investigation into a cluster of measles cases at a Fort Lauderdale-area elementary school with low vaccination rates, a scenario health experts fear is spreading across the country. I will become more and more common amid declining vaccination rates.

On Friday, Broward County Public Schools reported a confirmed case of measles in a student at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston. A local CBS affiliate reported that the case was of a third-grade student who had not traveled recently. On Saturday, the school system announced that three additional cases were reported at the same school, bringing the current total of reported cases to four.

on Sundayissued by the Florida Department of Health (DOH-Broward) in Broward County. A health advice of cases and announced that it was launching an investigation to track contacts at risk of infection.

At Manatee Bay Elementary School, the number of at-risk children may exceed 100 students. According to For the Broward County Vaccine Study As reported by a local CBS outlet, only 89.31 percent of Monte Bay Elementary School students were fully immunized in the 2023/2024 school year, significantly below the target vaccination coverage of 95 percent. not enough. The school currently has an enrollment of 1,067 students, suggesting that up to 114 students are susceptible to infection based on their vaccination status.

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses. It spreads through inhalation and air. The virus can remain airborne for up to two hours after an infected person has been in an area. People who have not been vaccinated or have compromised immune systems, and up to 90 percent of susceptible people will become infected with the virus. Measles symptoms usually begin about 8 to 14 days after exposure, but the illness can last up to 21 days. Symptoms begin as a high fever, runny nose, red and watery eyes, and cough, before the rash appears. Infected people can be contagious for up to four days before the rash appears. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1 in 5 unvaccinated people infected with measles are hospitalized. The CDC addedWhile 1 in 20 infected children develop pneumonia and 3 in 1,000 children die from the infection.

People who are not immunocompromised and have been fully vaccinated against measles (those who have received two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine) are generally not considered at risk. There are two doses. About 97% effective In the prevention of measles, and protection is considered lifelong.

DOH-Broward said it is now “identifying susceptible contacts who may be candidates for postexposure prophylaxis with MMR or immunoglobulin.”

While the risk of measles in the U.S. is generally low—the country declared it eliminated in 2000—the risk of large outbreaks is increasing as vaccination rates decline. Many of the cases in the U.S. are linked to travel to countries where the virus still circulates. But, if a travel-related case arrives in a pocket with low vaccination coverage, the virus can spread. Such was the case in 2019, when 1,274 cases of measles were reported in the country and Almost lost its elimination status.

Health authorities generally consider vaccination coverage of 95 percent or greater to be sufficient to protect against ongoing transmission. In the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination rates among American kindergartners have dropped by 93 percent, and Vaccination exemptions hit an all-time high. In the latest data for the 2022-2023 academic year. There are now at least 10 states with vaccination exemption rates above 5 percent, meaning that even if every non-exempt child was vaccinated, those states would still have a 95 percent chance of reaching the goal. There will not be enough coverage for

The CDC has extended So far this year, there have been 20 reported cases of measles in the United States.. But these are the numbers as of February 15. That does not include any cases in Florida since Friday. In 2023, 58 cases of measles were reported to the CDC.

This story was originally published by Ars Technica.