Doctors call for elderly to get blood tests amid highest measles outbreak in U.S.

Doctors call for elderly to get blood tests amid highest measles outbreak in U.S.
Doctors call for elderly to get blood tests as U.S. sees highest measles outbreak since 2000 (Source: WWSB)

SARASOTA (WWSB) - The United States is seeing the highest measles outbreak since the disease was completely eradicated back in 2000.

As of Wednesday, officials said there are 695 reported cases in 22 states, including Florida. This exceeds the previous high of 667 cases in 2014.

Though no cases have been reported on the Suncoast, there are two cases in Pinellas and Broward counties.

Doctors said those most at risk are babies and the elderly.

“It was awful," said Faust Delazzer as he recalled the terrible sickness.

He was about 8-years-old when he and both of his brothers got the measles at the same time.

“I didn’t get a vaccine, because they didn’t really vaccinate anybody before 1957," Delazzer said.

Since he’s already had the disease, he’s now immune to it.

Doctors said anyone born before 1957 is likely in his same boat, but they’re still recommending they get a blood test to double check that they have built the antibodies to fight the virus.

“We’re receiving a lot of calls from grandparents saying, ‘Hey, my grandchild is not vaccinated. I’m worried about this. What should I do,’" explained Amber Swartz, nurse practitioner for the Intercoastal Medical Group in Lakewood Ranch. "So what we would recommend is having a blood test to confirm that they’ve been exposed or that they’ve had the immunizations.”

Elderly who have never had the measles or a vaccination are more susceptible to catching it. Babies are too, since they don’t get their first shots until about 12 months old.

“The babies are at great risk, the elderly population [is] at great risk and so is the immune comprised," Swartz explained. "So depending on who comes in contact with that virus, with that one sick person, it can spread very, very quickly.”

The problem is, once you have the measles, doctors said it usually takes about four days for any symptoms to show.

“Once you develop the rash, typically everything hits at once," said Swartz. "Rash, really runny eyes, feeling very poorly, high temperature, up to 103 and the child remains very ill for about two weeks.”

The delay in symptoms makes the disease easier to spread, especially in communities with high rates of non-immunization. This is why doctors say it’s crucial that everyone is vaccinated.

“It’s airborne, and it lingers in the air for two hours," Swartz added. "Just us in here talking right now. I leave the room, that virus is still lingering in here for up to two hours, so that’s why we stress, it’s so important.”

Doctors said the measles are deadly. Statistics show that every year across the world 89,000 people die from the disease.

They believe Americans who traveled overseas brought it back to the U.S. and those who are not vaccinated are spreading it.

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