TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In light of recent measles and whooping cough outbreaks in Florida and across the country, the Florida Academy of Family Physicians encourages all parents and caregivers to make sure their children’s vaccinations and those of their caregivers are current. Florida is a major tourism hub for national and international travelers especially in the summer months, and residents are at risk of contracting diseases no longer common in the United States.
“Measles is a disease that was declared eliminated in this country in 2000 and the fact that cases are on the rise again is cause for concern,” said Dr. Christie Sain, a Tallahassee-based family physician. “Vaccines are the best method available to protect children and their families from preventable infectious diseases and I urge all parents to take time this summer to make sure their families are up-to-date on their vaccines.”
According to the Florida Department of Health, overall immunization rates among kindergarteners in Florida have decreased by nearly 5 percent since 1998; in other words, more than 10,000 students are without proper vaccinations. Six of the seven measles cases in Florida involved unvaccinated children between the ages of one and 16, with four claiming religious exemption to vaccination.
Consider the following statistics from the Florida Department of Health Immu- News and Prevention:
o There have been seven cases of measles so far this year in Florida, more confirmed cases than in nearly 15 years.
o Six of the seven Florida cases have involved recent travelers:
o One foreign visitor contracted the virus before traveling to Florida.
o Three Floridians brought measles back from countries where the disease is endemic.
o One person became infected outside of Florida but within the United States.
o One of the cases was linked to a history of travel.
o One case came from an unknown exposure source.
“It’s important to remember that vaccines aren’t just for children – adults need them, too,” Dr. Sain said. “Immunity can fade over time and some adults may not have completed the recommended schedule of childhood vaccines, while others may not have had access to the newest vaccines as a child.”
Immunizations are important for the individual, and for the community as a whole. Immunizing yourself can protect others around you from contracting dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, a concept known as “cocooning.” Those who should particularly consider immunizing themselves include those who care for or are around seniors and young children; parents, siblings and close relatives of newborn or soon-to-be-born babies; and those who know someone with a compromised immune system.
“As with any decision concerning your health and the health of your family, you should always talk to your family physician,” said Dr. Sain.
If it is financially difficult to pay for your child’s vaccines, ask about the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, a federal program providing eligible children with all recommended vaccines at no cost and on time. More information about this program can be found at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/disease_ctrl/immune/vfc/index.html..
The Florida Academy of Family Physicians is Florida’s medical specialty association composed of more than 4,000 family medicine physicians, resident physicians and medical students from across the state. The FAFP works to advance the specialty of family medicine by promoting excellence and improvement in the health care of all Floridians. Our priority is to help our members to become the best family physicians they can be through effective communication, legislation/regulation, education, advocacy, research and motivation.