As a Florida elementary school tries to contain a growing measles outbreak, the state’s top health official is defying science and putting unvaccinated children at risk of contracting one of the most contagious pathogens on earth, clinicians and public health experts say. .

Florida surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo could not Urge parents to vaccinate their children or keep unvaccinated students To be careful from school to home Letter After six confirmed cases of measles for parents at Fort Lauderdale-area schools this week.

Instead of following what he said is the “conventional” recommendation that parents keep unvaccinated children indoors for up to 21 days – the incubation period for measles – Ladapo said the state health department “It’s leaving it up to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.”

Ladapo’s controversial move follows a growing trend of tightening public health regulations, particularly when it comes to vaccinations. Last month, he called for an end to the use of mRNA coronavirus vaccines in a move condemned by the public health community.

Ben Hoffman, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Florida’s guidelines fly in the face of long-standing and widely accepted health guidelines for measles, which can lead to serious complications, including death.

“It goes against what I’ve heard and what I’ve read,” Hoffman said. β€œIt is against our policy. What is it against? [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] He advises.”

Measles outbreaks are increasing in recent years. So far in 2024 At least 26 cases in at least 12 states About twice as many have been reported to the CDC as at this point last year. In addition to the six cases confirmed by the Florida school It has been reported in Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Experts say the number of parents seeking exemption from childhood vaccinations has increased in recent years due to the political response to the corona virus epidemic and misinformation about the safety of vaccines.

In January, C.C.D Warning For health providers to be alert for more measles cases. Infected people are contagious starting four days before and up to four days before the rash appears.

Measles virus particles are in the air and on the ground for two hours after an infected person leaves, and up to 90 percent of unimmunized people will get measles if exposed. People who have had or received a full two doses of the MMR vaccine are 98 percent protected and less likely to get the disease. That This is why public health officials advocate vaccination during epidemics.

John P. Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College, said: “The measles outbreak in Florida schools is because many parents did not protect their children with the safe and effective measles vaccine. “And why? It’s because the anti-vaccination sentiment in Florida comes from the top of the public health food chain,” Joseph Ladapo.

When asked for comment, the Florida Department of Health responded with the following link Ladapo letter.

Ladapo’s reluctance to use public health tools echoes the efforts of conservative and liberal forces to undermine public health’s ability to contain diseases such as highly contagious measles. In the year In the Ohio measles outbreak that began in late 2022, most 85 children have been infected with the virus. They were old enough to be shot, but their parents chose not to do so, officials said. State Legislature In 2021 It stripped health officials of the ability to order the isolation of a person suspected of having an infectious disease.

Ladapo’s letter to parents comes amid concerns about the public health consequences of anti-vaccination sentiment, a long-standing problem that has led to declining childhood vaccination rates across the United States. In the 2022-2023 school year, the percentage of kindergarten students whose parents had at least one of the state-required childhood immunizations reached an all-time high β€” 3 percent. Federal data released last year.

Paul Offit Ladapo, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the lack of vaccination reminders puts children at risk.

“If the data is clear that measles is not contagious, is he trying to prove that it is more contagious than influenza or covid?” Offit wrote in an email.

The measles virus is highly contagious, and infections spread quickly. Young children are especially vulnerable because the first dose is not given until the child is 12 to 15 months old. The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine, the second dose between ages 4 and 6.

A drop in measles vaccine coverage below 95 percent can compromise herd immunity and allow the virus to spread rapidly. The state of Florida’s immunization coverage is 90.6 percent, but statewide immunization coverage does not identify pockets of potentially lower coverage.

The epidemic will break out at a very rapid rate, if it does, it will be a very large societal threat. Unvaccinated People exposed to the virus often don’t follow public health recommendations and stay out of school when there’s a risk of infection, said Patsy Stinchfield, president of the National Infectious Diseases Foundation. and a nurse practitioner in Minneapolis. In the year She has been involved in the control of three measles outbreaks, including a 2017 outbreak in Minnesota that infected 75 people, most of whom were unvaccinated and most of whom were children.

In the United States, 1 in 5 unvaccinated people with measles are hospitalized. According to the CDC. About 1 in 20 children will develop pneumonia, the most common cause of death in young children from measles. About 1 in 1,000 children with measles will develop brain swelling, which can lead to convulsions and cause the child to become deaf or mentally retarded. For unvaccinated children, 1 in 600 people who get measles can develop a fatal neurological disorder; This has been dormant for years.

Manatee Bay Elementary School, about 20 miles west of Fort Lauderdale, has six confirmed cases of measles, school officials said this week. Of the school’s 1,067 students, 33 have not received the MMR vaccine, Broward County Schools Superintendent Peter B. Licata said Wednesday at a school board meeting. A school district official said the district maintains “four vaccination opportunities,” including two at the school and two at other locations in the community.

The first case was reported on Friday in a third grade boy He had no history of foreign travel Florida health officials said.

School officials referred questions to the Broward County School District, which is following guidelines from the state health department.